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February 9, 2021

Classroom Resource: Share with your students what made Cicely Tyson a pioneering icon

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read a transcript of the video, click here.

Summary: Cicely Tyson (1924–2021) was an actress “notable for powerful performances and a refusal to accept roles that demeaned Black people,” said NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown. She started acting in the 1960s, starring in films throughout her career such as “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “Roots,” and died at the age of 96 on January 28, 2021. 

  • In an interview, Tyson said that she “cannot afford the luxury of just being an actress. There were so many issues that I felt that I had to address, and I used my career as my platform.”
  • In 2016, Tyson received a Presidential Honor of Freedom from Barack Obama, and in 2018 she received an honorary Oscar award. 
  • Tyson recently published a memoir, “Just As I Am.” 

Discussion:

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is Cicely Tyson?
  • What is so special about this actress?
  • How did she make a difference for people?
  • Where and When did she make a difference for people?
  • Why is she unique?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus questions:

  1. Can you think of anyone like Cicely Tyson who made important strides for others to follow in their field/profession?
  2. If you had fame and celebrity, how would you choose to use your influence, if at all?

Media literacy: What else would you want to know about Tyson’s life that wasn’t covered in this short video clip?

Additional resources: NewsHour EXTRA occasionally features obituaries of prominent Americans in the arts or politics. You can find some from the previous year below.

This lesson was written by Rebecca Shaid, EXTRA’s intern and freshman at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.


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