Cicely Tyson, the award-winning actress who broke barriers and won awards for her iconic performances died Thursday at age 96.
During her lifetime, Tyson won Emmy Awards, Tonys for her performances on Broadway and garnered a best actress Academy Award nomination for her role in the 1972 film Sounder. Some of her other notable performances were in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974); Roots (1977); Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1994); and the television series How to Get Away With Murder.
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As news of Tyson’s death spread, tributes began to pour in from prominent figures in the entertainment community.
Tyler Perry, who directed the actress in his films Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005); Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010), and A Fall from Grace (2020) remembered Tyson in a heartfelt tribute on Instagram.
“She was the grandmother I never had and the wisdom tree that I could always sit under to fill my cup,” Perry shared. “My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next. 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. Always so regal, always so classy, always a lady, always a queen.”
Ava DuVernay, who cast Tyson in her 2020 anthology series Cherish the Day, shared a tribute on Twitter, writing: “Your hugs I’ll remember. How your petite arms wrapped around me like mighty branches of a sunlit tree, strong and warm. Your love I’ll remember. You loved me for some reason and told me often. Thank you, Your Majesty. And bless you as you journey ahead. Until we meet again…”
Shonda Rhimes, who worked with Tyson on How to Get Away With Murder, added on Instagram, “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. #cicelytyson.”
Common posted a photo collage of Tyson on Twitter and wrote: “I’m so sad to hear the news that trailblazing artist and cultural icon Cicely Tyson has passed away today. While she may be gone, her work and life will continue to inspire millions for years to come. God Bless.”
Soledad O’Brien added: “So many great stories about Cicely Tyson! Whew: that lady was amazing. While shooting a doc on her in Spanish Harlem—people kept stopping their cars! In the street! To hop out and say hi! Old people. Teenagers. Middle aged fans. “Ciss-el-lee” they’d chant as she’d walk by!”