Cicely Tyson
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Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson.jpg
Tyson in 1997
Born (1924-12-19) December 19, 1924 (age 95)
OccupationActress
Years active1948-present
Notable work
Kenneth Franklin
(m. after 1942)
[1] divorce date unknown
(m. 1981; div. 1989)

Cicely L. Tyson (born December 19, 1924) is an American actress and former fashion model. In a career spanning more than seven decades, she has become known for her portrayal of strong African-American women.[2][3] Tyson is the recipient of three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Black Reel Awards, one Screen Actors Guild Award, one Tony Award, an honorary Academy Award, and a Peabody Award.

Having appeared in minor film and television roles early in her career, Tyson garnered widespread attention and critical acclaim for her performance as Rebecca Morgan in Sounder (1972); she was nominated for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her work in the film. Tyson's portrayal of the title role in the 1974 television film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman won her further praise; among other accolades, the role won her two Emmy Awards and a nomination for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Tyson has continued to act in film and on television in the 21st century. In 2011, she played the role of Constantine Jefferson in the award-winning film The Help. She has also played the role of Ophelia Harkness in American Broadcasting Company's legal drama How to Get Away With Murder since the show's inception in 2014, for which she was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series five times.

In addition to her screen career, Tyson has appeared in various theater productions. She received a Drama Desk Award in 1962 for her Off-Broadway performance in Moon on a Rainbow Shawl. Tyson also starred as Carrie Watts in the Broadway play The Trip to Bountiful, winning the Tony Award, the Outer Critics Award, and the Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Play in 2013. Tyson was named a Kennedy Center honoree in 2015. In November 2016, Tyson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor in the United States. In 2020, she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.

Early life

Tyson was born in Harlem on December 19, 1924,[4][5] the daughter of Frederica Tyson, a domestic worker, and William Augustine Tyson, who worked as a carpenter, painter, and at any other jobs he could find. Her parents were immigrants from Nevis in the West Indies.[6][7][8] Her father arrived in New York City at age 21 and was processed at Ellis Island on August 4, 1919.[9]

Career

Early work

Tyson in 1973

Tyson was discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine and became a popular fashion model. Her first acting role was on the NBC series Frontiers of Faith in 1951.[10] Tyson played her first film role in Carib Gold in 1956.[11] She became the first African American to star in a television drama when she starred in the celebrated series East Side/West Side(1963-1964).[12] She also had a role in the soap opera The Guiding Light.[13]

In the early 1960s, Tyson appeared in the original cast of French playwright Jean Genet's The Blacks. She played the role of Stephanie Virtue Secret-Rose Diop; other notable cast members included Maya Angelou Make, James Earl Jones, Godfrey Cambridge, Louis Gossett Jr, and Charles Gordone.[14] The show was the longest running off-Broadway non-musical of the decade, running for 1,408 performances.[15] On March 25, 1963, Tyson appeared on the game show To Tell The Truth as a decoy contestant for Shirley Abicair.[16][better source needed] She appeared with Sammy Davis Jr. in the film A Man Called Adam (1966)[17][18] and starred in the film version of Graham Greene's The Comedians (1967).[19] Tyson had a featured role in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968)[20] and appeared in a segment of Roots.[21][22]

Stardom

In 1972, Tyson played the role of Rebecca Morgan in the critically acclaimed film Sounder. She was nominated for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her work in Sounder, and also won the NSFC Best Actress and NBR Best Actress Awards.

In 1974, Tyson played the title role in the television film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Tyson's portrayal of a centenarian black woman's life from slavery until her death before the Civil rights movement won her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie and an Emmy Award for Actress of the Year - Special. Tyson was also nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work in this television film.

Tyson's acclaimed television roles include: Binta in the 1977 miniseries Roots, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Miniseries or a Movie; Coretta Scott King in the 1978 miniseries King, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie; Marva Collins in the 1981 television film The Marva Collins Story, for which she received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie, and Muriel in the 1986 television film Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Story, for which she received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.

Later career

In 1991, Tyson appeared in Fried Green Tomatoes as Sipsey.[] In the 1994-95 television series Sweet Justice, Tyson portrayed a civil rights activist and attorney named Carrie Grace Battle, a character she shaped by reportedly consulting with noted Washington, D.C. civil rights and criminal defense lawyer Dovey Johnson Roundtree.[] Other notable film roles include the dramas Hoodlum (1997) and Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), and the television films Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1994) (for which she received her third Emmy Award) and A Lesson Before Dying (1999).[] In 2005, Tyson co-starred in Because of Winn-Dixie.[]

In 2010, Tyson appeared in Why Did I Get Married Too? and narrated the Paul Robeson Award-winning documentary, Up from the Bottoms: The Search for the American Dream. In 2011, Tyson appeared in her first music video in Willow Smith's 21st Century Girl. That same year, she played Constantine Jefferson, a maid in Jackson, Mississippi, in the critically acclaimed period drama The Help.[23] Set in the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, the film won the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Acting Ensemble and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.[]

At the 67th Tony Awards on June 9, 2013, Tyson won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Miss Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful.[24] She also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play for the role.[25][26]

In 2013, Tyson played a supporting role in the horror film The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia.[27] Since 2014, Tyson has guest-starred in How to Get Away with Murder as Ophelia Harkness, the mother of main character Annalise Keating (Viola Davis); for this role, she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. In 2020, she was in the popular movie A Fall From Grace featured on Netflix.[28]

Honors

In addition to her Screen Actor Guild Award, her Tony Award, her Emmy Awards, and her Black Reel Awards, Tyson has received several other honors.

Tyson has received honorary degrees from Clark Atlanta University, Columbia University;[29]Howard University;[30] and Morehouse College, an all-male historically black college.[31]

In 1977, Tyson was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. In 1980, she received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[32] In 1982, Tyson was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award. The award is given to outstanding women who, through their endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry.[33] In 1988, Tyson received a Candace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.[34]

Tyson in 2009

In 2005, Tyson was honored at Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball. She has also been honored by the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Council of Negro Women.[]

The Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts, a magnet school in East Orange, New Jersey, was named after her in 2009.[35]

Tyson was awarded the NAACP's 2010 Spingarn Medal for her contribution to the entertainment industry, her modeling career, and her support of civil rights.[36][37][38]

Tyson was a recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 2015.[39] She was awarded the United States' highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama in November 2016.[40]

In September 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Tyson would receive an honorary Academy Award.[41] On November 18, 2018, Tyson became the first African-American woman to receive an honorary Oscar.[42]

In 2018, Tyson was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[43] She was chosen to be inducted into the Television Academy's Hall of Fame in 2020.[44]

Personal life

Davis and Tyson in 1982

At age 18, Tyson married Kenneth Franklin on December 27, 1942.[45] The marriage was later dissolved.[]

Tyson first dated jazz trumpeter Miles Davis in the 1960s when he was in the process of divorcing dancer Frances Davis.[46] Davis used a photo of Tyson for his 1967 album, Sorcerer. Davis told the press in 1967 that he intended to marry Tyson in March 1968 after his divorce was finalized,[47] but he married singer Betty Davis that September.[48] Tyson and Davis rekindled their relationship in 1978. They were married on November 26, 1981 in a ceremony conducted by Atlanta mayor Andrew Young at the home of actor Bill Cosby. Their marriage was tumultuous due to Davis' volatile temper and infidelity.[49] Davis credited Tyson with saving his life and helping him overcome his cocaine addiction.[49] They resided in Malibu, California and New York City, until she filed for divorce in 1988.[50] Their divorce was finalized in 1989, two years before Davis died in 1991.[49]

Tyson has no children.[51] She is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.[52]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1956 Carib Gold Dottie
1958 Odds Against Tomorrow Jazz Club bartender
1959 The Last Angry Man Girl Left on Porch (uncredited)
1966 A Man Called Adam Claudia Ferguson
1967 The Comedians Marie Therese
1968 The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter Portia
1972 Sounder Rebecca Morgan Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
Nominated -- Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated -- Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
1976 The Blue Bird Tylette, The Cat
1976 The River Niger Mattie Williams
1978 A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich Sweets
1979 The Concorde ... Airport '79 Elaine
1981 Bustin' Loose Vivian Perry
1991 Fried Green Tomatoes Sipsey
1997 Hoodlum Stephanie St. Clair Nominated -- Acapulco Black Film Festival Award for Best Actress
Nominated -- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
2001 The Double Dutch Divas! Herself (short subject) (uncredited)
2005 Because of Winn-Dixie Gloria Dump
2005 Diary of a Mad Black Woman Myrtle NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated -- BET Comedy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Theatrical Film
Nominated -- Black Movie Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
2006 Madea's Family Reunion Myrtle
2006 Fat Rose and Squeaky Celine
2006 Idlewild Mother Hopkins
2007 Rwanda Rising Voice of Jeanette Nyirabagarwa (documentary)
2009 Up from the Bottoms: The Search for the American Dream Narrator (documentary)
2010 Why Did I Get Married Too? Ola
2011 The Help Constantine Jefferson Black Film Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble
Black Reel Award for Best Ensemble
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
Hollywood Film Festival Award for Ensemble of the Year
National Board of Review Award for Best Cast
Satellite Award for Best Cast - Motion Picture
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
Women Film Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated -- Central Ohio Film Critics Association for Best Ensemble
Nominated -- Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated -- San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Performance by an Ensemble
Nominated -- Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
2012 Alex Cross Regina "Nana Mama" Cross
2013 The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia Mamma Kay
2016 Showing Roots Hattie
2017 Last Flag Flying Mrs. Hightower
2020 A Fall from Grace Alice

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1962 The Nurses Betty Ann Warner Episode: "Frieda"
1963 To Tell the Truth Decoy contestant Episode: March 25, 1963 (decoy for Shirley Abicair)
1963 Naked City Episode: "Howard Running Bear Is a Turtle"
1963-64 East Side/West Side Jane Foster 26 episodes
1965 Slattery's People Sarah Brookman Episode: "Question: Who You Taking to the Main Event, Eddie?"
1965-66 I Spy Princess Amara
Vickie Harmon
Episode: "So Long, Patrick Henry"
Episode: "Trial by Treehouse"
1966 Guiding Light Martha Frazier
1967 Cowboy in Africa Julie Anderson Episode: "Tomorrow on the Wind"
1967 Judd for the Defense Lucille Evans Episode: "Commitment"
1968-69 The F.B.I. Julie Harmon
Lainey Harber
Episode: "The Enemies"
Episode: "Silent Partners"
1969 Medical Center Susan Wiley Episode: "The Last 10 Yards"
1969 The Courtship of Eddie's Father Betty Kelly Episode: "Guess Who's Coming for Lunch"
1970 Gunsmoke Rachel Biggs Episode: "The Scavengers"
1970 Mission: Impossible Alma Ross Episode: "Death Squad"
1970 The Bill Cosby Show Mildred Hermosa Episode: "Blind Date"
1970 Here Come the Brides Princess Lucenda Episode: "A Bride for Obie Brown"
1971 Insight Episode: "The Bird of the Mast"
1971 Marriage: Year One Emma Teasley Unsold pilot
1971 Neighbors
1972 Emergency! Mrs. Johnson Episode: "Crash"
1972 Wednesday Night Out
1974 The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman Jane Pittman Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
Emmy Award for Actress of the Year - Special
Nominated -- BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1974 Free to Be... You and Me Herself
1976 Just an Old Sweet Song Priscilla Simmons
1977 Roots Binta Miniseries
Nominated -- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
1977 Wilma Blanche Rudolph
1978 King Coretta Scott King Miniseries
Nominated -- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
1978 A Woman Called Moses Harriet Ross Tubman
1979 Saturday Night Live Herself (host) Episode: "Cicely Tyson/Talking Heads"
1981 The Body Human: Becoming a Woman Host
1981 The Marva Collins Story Marva Collins NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Nominated -- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
1982 Benny's Place Odessa
1985 Playing with Fire Carol Phillips
1986 Intimate Encounters Dr. Claire Dalton
1986 Acceptable Risks Janet Framm
1986 Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Story Muriel NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
1989 The Women of Brewster Place Mrs. Browne
1990 The Kid Who Loved Christmas Etta
1990 B.L. Stryker Ruth Hastings Episode: "Winner Takes All"
1990 Heat Wave Ruthana Richardson CableACE Award for Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
1991 Clippers Donna Unsold pilot
1992 Duplicates Dr. Randolph
1992 When No One Would Listen Sarah
1993 House of Secrets Evangeline
1994 Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All Castralia, Marsden Family House Slave/Maid Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated -- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated -- Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
1994-95 Sweet Justice Carrie Grace Battle Nominated -- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Drama Series
Nominated -- Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
1996 The Road to Galveston Jordan Roosevelt NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Lone Star Film & Television Award for Best TV Actress
Nominated -- CableACE Award for Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
Nominated -- Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
1997 Bridge of Time Guardian
1997 Riot Maggie Segment: "Homecoming Day"
Nominated -- CableACE Award for Supporting Actress in a Movie or Miniseries
1997 Ms. Scrooge Ms. Ebenita Scrooge
1997 The Price of Heaven (Blessed Assurance) Vesta Lotte Battle
1998 Always Outnumbered Luvia
1998 Mama Flora's Family Mama Flora NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
1999 A Lesson Before Dying Tante Lou Black Reel Award for Network/Cable - Best Supporting Actress
Nominated -- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated -- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
1999 Aftershock: Earthquake in New York Emily Lincoln
2000 Touched by an Angel Abigail Peabody-Jackson Episode: "Living the Rest of My Life"
2000 The Outer Limits Justice Gretchen Parkhurst Episode: "Final Appeal"
2001 Jewel Cathedral
2001 The Proud Family Mrs. Maureen Parker (voice) Episode: Behind Family Lines
2002 The Rosa Parks Story Leona Edwards McCauley Black Reel Award for Network/Cable - Best Supporting Actress
2005 Higglytown Heroes Great Aunt Shirley Hero Episode: "Wayne's 100 Special Somethings"
2009 Relative Stranger Pearl Nominated -- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Nominated -- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Miniseries or a Movie
2009 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Ondine Burdett Episode: "Hell"
2014 The Trip to Bountiful Mrs. Carrie Watts TV movie
Black Reel Award for Best Actress: T.V. Movie/Cable
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Online Film & Television Association Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries
Nominated -- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie (executive producer)
Nominated -- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated -- Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries
Nominated -- Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Film
Nominated -- Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
2015-2020 How to Get Away with Murder Ophelia Harkness 10 episodes: "Mama's Here Now", "There's My Baby", "Anna Mae", "Go Cry Somewhere Else", "I'm Going Away", "Lahey v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania", "Where Are Your Parents", "Are You The Mole" - [voice only], "The Reckoning", "Stay"
Nominated -- Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series
Nominated -- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (2015, 2017-2020)
Nominated -- NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2016-2017)
2016 House of Cards Doris Jones 3 episodes
2019 Madam Secretary Flo Avery Episode: "Leaving the Station"
2020 Cherish the Day Miss Luma Lee Langston Series regular

Theatre

Year Title Role Theatre Ref.
1957 Dark of the Moon Little Theatre [53]
1959 Jolly's Progress Jolly (understudy) Longacre Theatre [54]
1960 The Cool World Girl Eugene O'Neill Theatre [55]
1961 The Blacks: A Clown Show Stephanie Virtue Diop St. Mark's Playhouse [53][56]
1962 Moon on a Rainbow Shawl East 11th Street Theater [53]
1962 Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright Celeste Chipley
Adelaide Smith (understudy)
Booth Theatre [57]
1963 The Blue Boy in Black Joan Masque Theatre [53][58]
1963 Trumpets of the Lord Rev. Marion Alexander Astor Place Theatre [53][59]
1966 A Hand Is on the Gate Performer Longacre Theatre [60]
1968 Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights Myrna Jessup John Golden Theatre [53][61]
1969 To Be Young, Gifted and Black Various Cherry Lane Theatre [53][62]
1969 Trumpets of the Lord Rev. Marion Alexander Brooks Atkinson Theatre [63]
1983 The Corn Is Green Miss Moffat Lunt-Fontanne Theatre [64][65]
2013 The Trip to Bountiful Miss Carrie Watts Stephen Sondheim Theatre [66]
2015 The Gin Game Fonsia Dorsey John Golden Theater [67]

Radio

Year Title Role
1979 Sears Radio Theater Host, Thursdays "Love and Hate Night"

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

Note: The year given is the year of the ceremony

Year Award Performance Result
1973 Best Actress Sounder Nominated
2018 Academy Honorary Award - Won

Golden Globe Awards

Note: The year given is the year of the ceremony

Year Award Performance Result
1973 Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama Sounder Nominated

Emmy Award

Note: The year given is the year of the ceremony

Tony Awards

Note: The year given is the year of the ceremony

Year Award Performance Result
2013 Best Actress in a Play The Trip to Bountiful Won

Peabody Awards

Note: The year given is the year of the ceremony

Year Award Performance Result
2020 Career Achievement Peabody[68] - Won

Television Hall of Fame

Note: The year given is the year of the ceremony

Year Award Performance Result
2020 Television Hall of Fame[69] - Won

References

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  69. ^ Hipes, Patrick (December 3, 2019). "TV Academy Hall Of Fame Adding Bob Iger, Geraldine Laybourne, Seth MacFarlane, Jay Sandrich & Cicely Tyson". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on January 29, 2020. Retrieved 2019.

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