Ms. Cicely Tyson

Living Legend Award

 


Cicely Tyson was born in New York City on December 19, 1924 (although some believe her birth year to be 1933). She built a successful career by carefully choosing roles that exemplified quality and depth. She has won accolades and awards for her performances on TV, stage and in film, with credits including Sounder, Roots, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and The Help. Tyson has won two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, among other honors, over the course of her acting career. She was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1977.

Ms. Tyson was nominated for an Academy Award for 1972's Sounder. She also portrayed notable roles on television, including Kunta Kinte's mother in the adaptation of Alex Haley's Roots and the title role in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, which earned Tyson an Emmy Award in 1974. Moving to Broadway in 1983, Tyson was the lead in The Corn Is Green, a play set in a Welsh mining town.

Ms. Tyson's career trajectory wasn't a smooth one; at times, she had trouble simply finding work. She flatly refused to do "blaxploitation" films, or to take parts solely for the paycheck, and was selective about the roles she chose. As she explained in a 1983 interview, "Unless a piece really said something, I had no interest in it. I have got to know that I have served some purpose here.''

Ms. Tyson appeared in The Help (2011) and in several Tyler Perry movies. And after a 30-year absence from Broadway, Tyson returned with a role in Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful. The actress traveled to Texas in an effort to better understand her part in the acclaimed production—dedication that paid off when her performance won Tyson the 2013 Tony Award for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a play.