Tyson, Cecily

Tyson, Cecily, 1924-2021, American actress, b. East Harlem, N.Y. Of Caribbean heritage, Tyson began working as a model while studying acting in the late '40s at New York’s Actors Studio. Tyson first gained recognition as an actress in 1961 when she appeared in the Off Broadway production of The Blacks. She was the first Black actress to star in a TV series, East Side/West Side (1963-64). Tyson had her first starring movie role in Sounder (1972), which earned her Best Actress nominations for the Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards. Two years later, she won an Emmy award for her performance in the television film, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Tyson enjoyed a triumphant return to Broadway at age 88 appearing in The Trip to Bountiful (2013), winning Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards for her performance. In total, she appeared in 29 films, 68 television specials and series, and 15 stage productions on and off Broadway. From 1981-89, she was married to jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, a relationship that began in the ‘60s; however, their marriage was tumultuous and she filed for divorce in 1988. In 2015, Tyson was named a Kennedy Center honoree, and a year later, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many other honors.

See her autobiography (2021).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Film and Television: Biographies