Remembering award-winning actress Cicely Tyson and her NYC roots

Thursday, January 28, 2021
NEW YORK (WABC) -- A life that can only be described as phenomenal.

Cicely Tyson's career spanned more than six decades before she passed away on Thursday at the age of 96, but her journey began in New York City.

The pioneering Black actress was born December 19, 1924 in Harlem after her parents moved from the Island of Nevis in the Caribbean. She was the youngest of three children and was feisty from the start.

That spark was still present even at the age of 94, when Tyson received an honorary Oscar statuette in 2018 at the annual Governors Awards.
94-year-old Cicely Tyson becomes first black actress to receive Honorary Oscar

"I come from lowly status. I grew up in an area that was called the slums at the time," Tyson said at the time. "I still cannot imagine that I have met with presidents, kings, queens. How did I get here? I marvel at it."

FITTING TRIBUTE | Famed Apollo Theater in Harlem pays tribute to Cicely Tyson
Apollo Theater pays tribute to Cicely Tyson

When Tyson's parents separated, her mother went on welfare. At nine Cicely sold shopping bags on the streets of East Harlem.

When she graduated from high school, she found work as a secretary at the Red Cross. Her striking looks prompted friends to advise her to take up modeling and that led to acting schools, theater, movies and television.

REMEMBERING CICELY TYSON | A look at her life and legacy in photos

Even at 94, Tyson continued to wow audiences with her looks and fashion.

Designer B Michael says he spent weeks and poured his heart into creating the masterpiece actress Tyson wore while accepting her Honorary Oscar in 2018.

B said he was overcome with emotion seeing the 94-year-old in the magnificent gown.
Designer B Michael creates Cicely Tyson's stunning Oscar gowns

Tyson would gain an Oscar nomination for her role as the sharecropper's wife in the 1972 film "Sounder," and a Tony Award in 2013 at age 88.

She also won two Emmys for playing the 110-year-old former slave in the 1974 television drama "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman." A new generation of moviegoers saw her in the 2011 hit "The Help."

The actress was nominated for an Emmy in 2020 for 'Outstanding Guest Actress' in the drama series "How to Get Away With Murder."

Tributes from celebrities poured in Thursday night honoring Tyson including "How to Get Away With Murder" star Viola Davis.

Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rimes and Robin Roberts also took to Twitter to mourn Tyson's loss.

Tyson's death also hit close to home for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who paid tribute to the local legend.

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