According to published reports, the Emmy- and Tony-winning actress, who distinguished herself in theater, film, and television, passed away on Thursday (Jan. 28) as confirmed by her longtime manager, Larry Thompson. In a statement confirming her death, Thompson reflects on the icon’s life and legacy, adding that her last task of placing a star atop her Christmas tree was her favorite.
“I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing,” her manager, Larry Thompson, said in a statement. “Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a Star, on top of the tree.”
Tyson, whose acting career spanned more than six decades, opened doors for many legendary actresses that we see today. Early in her career, the onscreen legend made the decision to only portray strong, positive, and realistic images of Black women on screen, resulting in mesmerizing performances in films such as Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, The Help, and the 2013 broadway production of The Trip to Bountiful, for which she won the Tony.
Among her many accolades, Ms. Tyson earned an Academy Award Best Actress nomination for Sounder in 1973, the following year she won the award for best lead actress and special outstanding actress of the year Emmy for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and for all of her life’s accomplishments, Tyson’s been recognized with a Kennedy Center Honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an honorary Oscar, and in 2018 was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
In total, Cicely Tyson has been nominated for a total of 16 times in her career. Her wins include a Supporting Actress Emmy Award win in 1994 for an adaptation of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All; she was nominated five times (as of 2020) for Guest Actress in a Drama for How to Get Away With Murder.
Prior to her passing, Tyson was promoting the release of her memoir, Just As I Am, where she reflected on her life and gave fans a true glimpse into the rich and bountiful, and largely private life that she lived. In the foreword, Tyson describes the 400-page book as being “plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside.”
“I want to feel as if I embodied our humanity so fully that it made us laugh and weep, that it reminded us of our shared frailties,” Cicely Tyson said of her decision to write the memoir. “I want to be recalled as one who squared my shoulders in the service of Black women, as one who made us walk taller and envision greater for ourselves.”
Cicely Tyson was 96 years old.