Cicely Tyson, the incomparable screen legend who helped transform the black community by portraying strong African-American women in film and television, has passed away at age 96. In a career that spanned over seven decades, Tyson was a big pillar to many major figures in Hollywood and as such, news of her death has everyone immortalizing her astonishing legacy.
Oscar winning actress Viola Davis, who starred opposite Tyson in the ABC drama ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ described Tyson as one who shifted her life and gave her permission to dream. She shared, ”I’m devastated. My heart is just broken. I loved you so much!! You were everything to me! You made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls. You gave me permission to dream….because it was only in my dreams that I could see the possibilities in myself. I’m not ready for you to be my angel yet. But…I also understand that it’s only when the last person who has a memory of you dies, that you’ll truly be dead. In that case, you will be immortal. Thank you for shifting my life. Thank you for the long talks. Thank you for loving me. Rest well.”
‘How to Get Away with Murder’ show executive Shonda Rhimes also wrote, ”She was an extraordinary person. And this is an extraordinary loss. She had so much to teach. And I still have so much to learn. I am grateful for every moment. Her power and grace will be with us forever.”
Eulogizing his first screen mum, LeVar Burton sculptured the late actress as ”the artist of the highest order”. “Elegance, warmth, beauty, wisdom, style and abundant grace. She was as regal as they come. An artist of the highest order, I will love her forever,” he wrote.
To the youngest Emmy winning actress in a drama category, Zendaya, Tyson was no doubt ”the greatest to ever do it”. ” This one hurts, today we honor and celebrate the life of one of the greatest to ever do it. Thank you, Cicely Tyson. Rest in great power.”
In Tyler Perry’s emotional tribute to the late legend, he reflects on how he had an overwhelming feeling to watch ‘Miss Jane Pittman’ (one of Tyson’s best performances ever) out of nowhere, only to hear from Oprah twelve minutes into the movie that Tyson is dead. To him, Tyson embodied regal and class and will forever miss their long talks. ”To think that she lived for 96 years and I got to be a part of the last 16 brings me great joy. She called me son. Well today your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence,” Tyler wrote.
”Of all the times and experiences we shared together, this was one of my favorites: The weekend of the Legends Ball in 2005. The idea for the ball originated because I wanted to celebrate HER, and other remarkable Black women who carved a path and built a bridge for me and generations to follow. What a joy to honor her and feel her receive it! I loved her hat so much, she sent it to me afterwards,” said Oprah. ”Her life so fully lived is a testimony to Greatness”.
Ava DuVernay, who presented Tyson her honorary Oscar statute in 2018 wrote in a statement, ”Your work I’ll remember. How your brave portrayals transformed the way the world witnessed Black women, whether they could accept what you shared or not. Your words I’ll remember. How each time I hung up the phone, I’d write them down so as not forget the precious jewels of encouragement and wisdom you’d gifted me. Your love I’ll remember. You loved me for some reason. You told me so often. I thank you for that forever and I’ll carry your love with me as I go. Bless you as you journey ahead, Your Majesty. Until we meet again…”
Octavia Spencer also paid tribute to Tyson, writing on Instagram, ”Cicely Tyson was a national treasure who paved the way for so many of us. It was truly an honor to work with you.”
Tyson was the first black woman to secure a recurring role in a drama series (East Side/West Side). She also became the first African-American actress to win a lead actress Emmy Award with the 1974 CBS telefilm ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’. A year before that, Tyson was an Academy Award nominee with the 1973 Martin Ritt’s drama “Sounder”.
She was also a recipient of one Screen Guild Award, one Tony Award and a Presidential Medal of Freedom honorary title from Barrack Obama in 2016 at the White House.
Tyson was married to jazz great Miles Davis from 1981 to 1988.