Pioneering actress Cicely Tyson dead at 96

Boundary-breaking actress Cicely Tyson died Thursday at the age of 96, her manager confirmed.

“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 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.”

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The Emmy- and Tony-winning, known for playing strong Black protagonists in films such as 1974′s “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “Sounder,” earned an Academy Award nomination for the latter in 1973, and an honorary 2018 Oscar. She also earned two Emmys for the former, a made-for-TV movie that made her a household name. To date, she has been nominated five times for guest actress in a drama series on the popular “How to Get Away With Murder,” The Associated Press reported.

According to Variety, Tyson refused throughout her career to play roles she considered demeaning to Black women, such as drug addicts, prostitutes or maids.

Her stage career began in the original 1961 Off Broadway production of Jean Genet’s “The Blacks” and culminated decades later with a Tony Award for her starring role in a revival of “The Trip to Bountiful,” the outlet reported.

Tyson’s memoir, “Just as I Am,” was published this week and described by The Washington Post as a “400-page chronicle of a history as American as apple pie, as Black as the dead of night, as rich, surely, as Tyson’s favorite meals, oxtails and okra, cooked up by her late ex-husband Miles Davis.”

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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