Cicely Tyson is an American actress. A successful stage actress, Tyson is also known for appearances in the film Sounder and the television specials The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and Roots.
Tyson was born and raised in Harlem, New York, the daughter of Theodosia and William Tyson, immigrants from the island of Nevis of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies. Tyson’s father arrived in New York City at the age of 21 and was processed at Ellis Island on August 4, 1919. She married legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis on 26 November 1981; the ceremony was conducted by Atlanta mayor Andrew Young at the home of actor Bill Cosby. Tyson and Davis divorced in 1988. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. On May 17, 2009, Tyson received an honorary degree from Morehouse College, an all-male college.
Tyson was discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine, and became a popular fashion model. Her first film was an uncredited role in Carib Gold in 1957, but she went on to do television – the celebrated series East Side/West Side and the long-running soap opera The Guiding Light. In 1961, Tyson appeared in the original cast of French playwright Jean Genet’s The Blacks, the longest running Off-Broadway non-musical of the decade, running for 1,408 performances. The original cast also featured James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Browne, Louis Gossett, Jr., Godfrey Cambridge, Maya Angelou and Charles Gordone. She appeared with Sammy Davis, Jr. in the film A Man Called Adam and starred in the film version of Graham Greene’s The Comedians. Tyson had a featured role in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and was in a segment of the movie Roots.
In 1972, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the critically acclaimed Sounder. In 1974, she won two Emmy Awards for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Other acclaimed television roles included Roots, King, in which she portrayed Coretta Scott King, The Marva Collins Story, When No One Would Listen and Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All for which she received her third Emmy Award. In her 1994-1995 television series Sweet Justice, Tyson portrayed a feisty, unorthodox Southern attorney named Carrie Grace Battle, a character she shaped by consulting with and shadowing the legendary Washington, D.C. civil rights and criminal defense lawyer Dovey Johnson Roundtree. In 2005, Tyson co-starred in the movies Because of Winn-Dixie and Diary of a Mad Black Woman. The same year she was honored by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball.