Cicely Tyson, the pioneering black actor who gained an Oscar nomination for her role in Sounder, died Thursday at age 96.
Her death was announced by her family, via her manager Larry 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.”
Before starting her acting career, she was a model. Tyson began her screen career with small parts but gained fame in the early 1970s when Black women were finally starting to get starring roles. Besides her Oscar nomination, she won two Emmys for playing a 110-year-old former slave in the 1974 television drama The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.
Tyson’s memoir, Just As I Am, was published this week.
“I’m very selective, as I’ve been my whole career, about what I do. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of person who works only for money. It has to have some real substance for me to do it,” she told the Associated Press in 2013.
In 2016, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. At that ceremony, Barack Obama said: “Cicely’s convictions and grace have helped for us to see the dignity of every single beautiful memory of the American family.”
Tyson remains an icon who has defied expectations, barriers, and decades.