The stage, film, and television actress Cicely Tyson, whose vibrant portrayals of influential African-American women in the dramatic arts of the 1970s smashed racial perceptions, propelling her to stardom and fame as an example of civil rights, died on Thursday.
She was 96 years old.
On December 27, 1942, at 18 years of age, Tyson married Kenneth Franklin. His husband left her after less than eighteen months of marriage, according to her divorce decree. In 1956, the marriage was legally dissolved.
In the 1960s, when he was in the process of divorcing dancer Frances Davis, Tyson first dated jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis. For his 1967 album, Sorcerer, Davis used a picture of Tyson. Davis told the press in 1967 that after his divorce was finalized, he intended to marry Tyson in March 1968, but that September he married singer Betty Davis.
In 1978, Tyson and Davis rekindled their friendship. On November 26, 1981, they were married in a ceremony held at the home of actor Bill Cosby by Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young. Due to Davis’ volatile temper and infidelity, their marriage was turbulent.
Davis gave Tyson credit for saving his life and helping him conquer his addiction to cocaine. Before she filed for divorce in 1988, they lived in Malibu, California, and New York City. In 1989, two years before Davis died in 1991, their divorce was finalized.
When she was 17 years old, Tyson had a daughter and was an honorary member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Her daughter’s name was Joan.
In the 21st century, Tyson continued acting in film and on television. In 2011, in the award-winning The Aid film, she played the role of Constantine Jefferson.
Since the show’s inception in 2014, she has played the role of Ophelia Harkness in the legal drama How to Get Away With Murder by the American Broadcasting Corporation, for which she was nominated five times for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
Tyson appeared in numerous theatre productions in addition to her film career. In 1962, for her Off-Broadway role in Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, she won a Drama Desk Award. In the Broadway play The Ride to Bountiful, Tyson also played Carrie Watts, winning the Tony Award, the Outer Critics Award, and the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Play.
In 2015, Tyson was named a Kennedy Center honoree. Tyson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2016, which is the United States’ highest civilian honor. She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2020.
Cicely Tyson Won An Honorary Oscar
She received an honorary Oscar at 93, and in 2018 was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame and in 2020 into the Television Hall of Fame. She also received a 2020 Peabody Award for career achievement.
Her family announced Tyson’s death through her manager, Larry Thompson, who did not immediately provide additional information.
According to a statement released by Thompson, “With heavy heart, the family of Miss Cicely Tyson announces her peaceful transition this afternoon. At this time, please allow the family their privacy,”
To have gotten to be in the same room as you multiple times, is truly to have been in the presence of GREATNESS!!. There are no words, just all the feelings you’ve evoked in us all and the indescribable blueprint, legacy you leave for us all. Thank you REST IN POWER! #cicelytysonpic.twitter.com/6g7cHrEIEP