Hollywood trailblazer Cicely Tyson, who paved a path for Black actresses during a career that spanned more than six decades, died in January 2021, her manager confirmed to Variety. She was 96.
The East Harlem native worked as a model before breaking into acting, appearing in top publications like Vogue. She learned her craft at the Actors Studio and became a regular face on the New York theater scene, but she'll no doubt be best remembered for the work she did — and didn't do — on the screen. Tyson made her debut in short drama "Carib Gold" and moved into feature films proper when she appeared as a jazz club worker in the Harry Belafonte picture "Odds Against Tomorrow," but she largely avoided movies in the decade that followed, making a conscious effort to turn down roles that demeaned Black women. She returned to the big screen with a bang in 1972's "Sounder," earning a Best Actress nomination for her turn as Depression era sharecropper Rebecca Morgan.
Tyson was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2019, by which point she was widely recognized as one of the industry's pioneers. She plied her trade on important TV shows like "Roots," "King," and "A Woman Called Moses," and would later appear on "House of Cards" and "How to Get Away with Murder," her final role. Other notable film credits include "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "The Help." Viola Davis, Shonda Rhimes, and Zendaya were among the many who paid tribute.