Just yesterday evening, we received the news that the iconic and groundbreaking actress Cicely Tyson passed at the age of 96. Leading up to this tragic news, social media had been showing love and appreciation for the actress’s achievements in cinema all week long.
Cicely Tyson is best known for her roles in several films and tv shows including Sounder (1972), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974), Roots (1977), The Women of Brewster Place (1989), Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), and How to Get Away with Murder (2015-2020) to name a few. Known for always delivering outstanding performances in everything she graced, it was no secret that this icon was an Oscar nominee as well as an Emmy and Tony winner. She was also inducted in the Television Hall of Fame in 2020.
While we always cherished her on-screen performances, let’s also remember Cicely Tyson also broke many barriers for Black women in Hollywood. She ultimately stood as the purest, resilient representation of a Black woman sporting protective styles like braids and shutting down racial stereotypes where they stood. She was even the first Black woman to wear conrow braids on television while starring on East Side/West Side in the 1960s.
Before her passing this week, Cicely Tyson had just announced her recently published book called Just As I Am which reflects on the actress’s 96 years on this earth. Just two days ago, Tyson sat down with Gayle King to discuss the book on Good Morning, America. King posed the question concerning how she wanted people to remember her legacy, she responded: “I’ve done my best. That’s all.”
Many tributes and heartwarming messages from industry professionals have been pouring in since last night.
Writer, producer, and directer Tyler Perry has frequently worked with Cicely Tyson and even referred to Tyson as a grandmother figure to him. He wrote, “She was the grandmother I never had and the wisdom tree that I could always sit under to fill my cup. My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next. To think that she lived for 96 years and I got to be a part of the last 16 brings me great joy. She called me son. Well, today your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence. Always so regal, always so classy, always a lady, always a queen…Well, I think it’s safe to say you have done all you were put here to do, and we are all better for it.”
Actress Viola Davis states in an emotional Instagram post, “I’m devastated. My heart is just broken. I loved you so much!! You were everything to me! You made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls. You gave me permission to dream….because it was only in my dreams that I could see the possibilities in myself. I’m not ready for you to be my angel yet. But…I also understand that it’s only when the last person who has a memory of you dies, that you’ll truly be dead. In that case, you will be immortal. Thank you for shifting my life. Thank you for the long talks. Thank you for loving me. Rest well.”
Cicely Tyson and her impact on cinema as well as the various doors she’s opened for Black women in film will be one that will live on forever. May she rest in peace.