MTSD Equity Practices: Cicely Tyson: An Icon


    Cicely Tyson


    She isn't  just someone who fulfilled her dreams. Ms. Cicely Tyson herself is a dream fulfilled," Shonda Rhimes.  

    Cicely Tyson was a model, actress, activist and author. 

    Tyson was born on December 18, 1924, in Harlem, New York City, US, to immigrants Frederica Tyson and William Augustine Tyson. As a teenager, Cicely Tyson caught the eye of a photographer of Ebonymagazine who offered her a career in modelling. From that opportunity, Tyson became a professional model and an actress. 

    As an African American woman, Tyson struggled to find meaningful roles that portrayed black women in a good light. Her journey to stardom wasn’t smooth. She was extremely selective about the roles she played and only wanted to perform characters that had depth and meaning. 

    In 1963, Cicely Tyson starred in the CBS drama “East Side/West Side” and became the first African American man or woman to star in a television series. Similarly, in 1974 she became the first African American woman to win an Emmy for a lead role in a movie entitled “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” 

    Over Tyson’s eight decade long career in entertainment, she won numerous awards. Just to name a few, Tyson received four Black Reel Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards, one Tony Award, one Screen Actors Guild Award, a Peabody Award, an honorary Academy Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 by President Barack Obama and was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the age of 95 years old in 2020. 

    She co-founded Dance Theater of Harlem and to commemorate her contribution to the field of entertainment, a magnet school in East Orange, New Jersey, was renamed the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts. 

    At the age of 96 years old, Tyson released her memoir, Just As I Am: A Memoir two days before her passing on January 28, 2021. She is survived by her daughter, Joan Tyson. 

    Please take the time as a family to watch and talk about this amazing legend, Cicely Tyson:  2020 Hall of Fame: Cicely Tyson