As Caribbean Americans in the United States celebrate National Caribbean American Heritage Month, the Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) has inducted Caribbean American actress Cicely L. Tyson into its “Wall of Fame.”
ICS said Tyson, the daughter of immigrants from Nevis and a former fashion model, is renowned for playing strong African-American women on screen and stage throughout her career.
She is the recipient of three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Black Reel Awards, one Screen Actors Guild Award and one Tony Award. Tyson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, in November 2016.
ICS said Tyson is the daughter of Frederica Tyson, a domestic, and William Augustine Tyson, who worked as a carpenter, painter, “and at any other jobs he could find.”
Her father arrived in New York City at 21 and was processed at Ellis Island on August 4, 1919, ICS said.
“Having appeared in minor film and television roles early in her career, Tyson garnered widespread attention and critical acclaim for her performance as Rebecca Morgan in “Sounder” (1972); she was nominated for the Academy and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, and won the NSFC Best Actress and NBR Best Actress Awards for the role,” ICS said.
“Her portrayal of a young slave at the end of the American Civil War in the 1974 television film, ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’ won her further praise,’” ICS added. “The role won her two Emmy Awards and a nomination for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role among other accolades.”
ICS said Tyson appeared in the 2011 drama film “The Help.”
Set in the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, the film had her play the role of Constantine, a maid in Jackson, Miss. and won her the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Screen Actors Guild Award for best ensemble cast, ICS said.
It said she has played the role of Ophelia Harkness in American Broadcasting Company’s legal drama, “How to Get Away With Murder,” since the show’s inception in 2014.
ICS said other notable film roles include the dramas Hoodlum (1997) and Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), and the television films, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1994) and A Lesson Before Dying (1999).
In addition to her screen career, ICS said Tyson has also appeared in various theater productions.
She starred as Carrie Watts in the Broadway play, “The Trip to Bountiful,” winning the Tony Award, Outer Critics Award, and Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Play.
Tyson has also been honored by the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Council of Negro Women, ICS said.
In 1977, it said Tyson was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and named a Kennedy Center honoree in 2015.