Pioneering Hollywood actress Cicely Tyson – who was known for portraying strong African-American characters – has died aged 96, her manager has said.
No cause for death was given. The ex-fashion model had a career that lasted seventy years.
Tyson won two Emmys for her performance in the 1974 civil rights film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.
She also became the first black woman to take the lead role in the East Side / West Side TV show in the 1960s.
Presenting Tyson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, the then US President Barack Obama said that apart from her achievements as a actress, she had also shaped the course of history.
Tyson rejected the roles played by black women that were stereotypical, only agreeing to play characters who were powerful, consensual and realistic.
“I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing,” her manager Larry Thompson said in Thursday’s statement announcing her death.
“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,” the manager said, adding that she died peacefully.
Tyson’s memorial Just As I Am was released Tuesday.
Vulture wrote about seven highlights from the book, including her accidentally hanging up on Mr Obama’s aide ringing to tell her she had won the prestigious medal.
“‘Oh please,’ I said laughing, feeling sure it was a prankster talking some foolishness,” she recalled. “How did you even get this number? She tried to persuade me that her declaration was true, but I wouldn’t hear of it’.”
Vulture said the book later went on to detail the couple falling out after their marriage, after Tyson first sniffed out “the stench of Miles’s philandering”. They were married from 1981 to 1988.
Paying tribute, American broadcaster and actress Oprah Winfrey said: “She has used her work to illuminate the personality of Black people. The roles she plays reflect her values; she has never compromised.”
‘I had No Idea I Would Touch Anybody’
Tyson recently told CBS spokesman Gayle King: “I didn’t know I was going to touch anyone.”
Michelle Obama added that “she will miss her very much”, and said: “I smile knowing how many people have encouraged, like me, to walk longer, speak more freely, and live more as God intended.”
Awards And Honours
Tyson was nominated for leading actor Oscar and the Golden Globe in 1973 in Sounder, about a family of poor black merchants during the Great Depression in 1933 in Louisiana.
In 1973, Tyson told the BBC’s Film Programme she hoped the acclaim for her role in Sounder “allows me to be considered for roles simply because I’m a good actress rather than because I’m a black actress, which limits my ability to work.
Tyson also appeared in the 2011 film Help and TV series including How to Get Away with Murder, starring Viola Davis, and House of Cards.
Oscar-winning actress Davis said Tyson had “made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls”.