Cicely Louise Tyson


Cicely Tyson’s family circa 1927, from left: her father, William; sister, Emily; mother, Fredericka; brother, Melrose, whom the family called Beau; and Cicely, age 2. | CREDIT: COURTESY CICELY TYSON

The Lineage of Cicely Tyson 

Father: William Augustine Tyson
Mother: Fredericka Tyson
Cicely (far right)
Brother: Melrose
Sister: Emily  

Cicely Tyson was born and raised in Harlem, New York.  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 parents were immigrants from Nevis in the West Indies. Her father arrived in New York City at age 21 and was processed at Ellis Island on August 4, 1919.

On perseverance
The moment anyone tries to demean or degrade you in any way, you have to know how great you are. Nobody would bother to beat you down if you were not a threat.” — Cicely at BET’s “Black Girls Rock!” awards in 2015

Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They’re what make the instrument stretch — what makes you go beyond the norm.”

I am not a quitter. I will fight until I drop. It is just a matter of having some faith in the fact that as long as you are able to draw breath in the universe, you have a chance.”

I think when you begin to think of yourself as having achieved something, then there’s nothing left for you to work towards. I want to believe that there is a mountain so high that I will spend my entire life striving to reach the top of it.” — Cicely while receiving an Honorary Academy Award in 2018.

I have learned not to allow rejection to move me.” — Cicely in the November 2017 issue of ELLE

You never know what motivates you.”

On activism
One of the things I have always said about the man-woman relationship is that I don’t want anybody to walk ahead of me, and I don’t want anybody to walk behind me. I want a man who will walk along beside me. And that’s how I feel about equal rights.”

In my early years, there were a number of experiences that made me decide I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress. There were a number of issues I wanted to address. And I wanted to use my career as a platform.”

Whatever good I have accomplished as an actress I believe came in direct proportion to my efforts to portray Black women who have made positive contributions to my heritage.”

We have to support our own films. If we don’t, how can we expect others to support them?”

On life
Age is just a number. Life and aging are the greatest gifts that we could possibly ever have.”

(Photo by Jeff Goode/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

New York, N.Y.: Actress Cicely Tyson stands in front of Sardi’s on W. 44th Street in Manhattan on August 1, 1966. (Photo by Stan Wolfson/Newsday RM via Getty Images)

I don’t think you can measure wealth in dollars and cents. I really don’t believe that at all because there are some things that money cannot buy. One of them is health. And the other is security in your relationships and friends.”


Whatever good I have accomplished as an actress I believe came in direct proportion to my efforts to portray black women who have made positive contributions to my heritage. – Cicely Tyson    

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