It’s a sad day today as Cicely Tyson, the Emmy and Tony-winning actress whose career includes dozens of roles in theater, movies, and television, has passed away. Just two days after the release of her memoir, Just As I Am, Tyson reportedly died on Thursday afternoon, though the cause of death wasn’t revealed. She was 96 years old.
“I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing,” Tyson’s 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’s work spans several decades, and she is very well remembered for her role as former slave Jane Pittman in the 1974 miniseries The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Telling the story of Jane’s entire life, Tyson played the character from early adulthood into her final years at the age of 110. For her performance, Tyson won Emmys for Best Lead Actress in a Drama and Actress of the Year.
Additionally, Tyson has scored Emmy nominations for roles in other titles like Roots, Sweet Justice, Hallmark Hall of Fame, and Relative Stranger. She has also been nominated consecutively for the past five years for her role on How to Get Away with Murder. On the stage, Tyson won her Best Actress Tony Award in 2013 for The Trip to Bountiful. In 2020, she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
Tyson’s role as Rebecca Morgan in the 1972 movie Sounder put her up for an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress; she was later given an honorary Academy Award in 2018. She is also acclaimed for her roles in other movies including Hoodlum, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion, The Help, and Alex Cross. Last year, she appeared in the movie A Fall from Grace and the OWN series Cherish the Day.
Several Hollywood stars are paying tribute to Tyson on social media. LeVar Burton, who co-starred with Tyson in Roots and recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the miniseries, posted a touching message for Tyson on Twitter. He writes, “This one cuts deep. @IAmCicelyTyson was my first screen Mom.. 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… RIP.”
Viola Davis, who worked with Tyson more recently on How to Get Away with Murder, also tweeted, “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…”