#RespectYourElders: Cicely Tyson (born 1924) is an Emmy Award winning actress known for her longstanding acting career dating back to the 1950s. She is the oldest Primetime Emmy Award nominee for her guest role on the critically acclaimed “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Tyson began her career in the spotlight as a fashion model in the 1950s, when she was featured in popular publications like Vogue and Ebony. Despite her impressive fashion career, Tyson always longed to be an actress. Against her mother’s wishes, she sought and won regular acting roles on stage and in television. She received national recognition after landing the role of Rebecca Morgan in “Sounder” in 1972, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. She received her first Emmy in 1974 for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”
Tyson always felt that her success and visibility meant she also had a responsibility in how she portrayed the African-American experience on screen. She was always extremely conscious of the roles she accepted. If it didn’t make a positive impact on the world around her, she would pass on the opportunity.
According to an interview Tyson gave with CBS, “”You know, I say no to everything first,” Tyson said. “I say no to everything because I always want to make sure that when I say yes, I know what I’m getting myself into.”
Her work and contributions to African-American culture earned her the NAACP’s 95th Spingarn Medal in 2010, the organization’s highest honor. Last year, President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom.
“Age is just a number,” said Tyson. “Life and aging are the greatest gifts that we could possibly ever have.”