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A look back at the life of iconic actress Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson, a towering and transformative actress, died Thursday at age 96. From her Harlem roots, she went on to appear in more than 100 film, television and stage roles. Jeffery Brown takes a look back at her life.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last night, Regina King sent out a tweet, saying: "Queen somehow just doesn't capture Ms. Tyson. She paved a way that created a space for girls like me to feel the light."

    Ms. Tyson was, of course, the great Cicely Tyson, a towering and transformative actor who died yesterday at the age of 96.

    Vice President Kamala Harris today tweeted: "She inspired the world with her art, activism and altruism."

    From her Harlem roots, Tyson went on to appear in more than 100 film, television and stage roles.

    Jeffrey Brown is back with our look.

  • Cicely Tyson:

    Look at me.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    It was a career notable for powerful performances and a refusal to accept roles that demeaned Black people. Cicely Tyson began acting in the 1960s, but her breakout came in the 1972 film "Sounder," as the wife of a Louisiana sharecropper.

    Two years later came the TV movie that won her widest fame, "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman." Tyson won the Emmy for best lead actress, the first African American to capture that award.

    In a 2008 ABC interview, she spoke of her resolve to avoid characters she considered ugly stereotypes.

  • Cicely Tyson:

    I remember going home and thinking, my God, Cicely, you 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.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Among her many on-screen roles, Kunta Kinte's mother in "Roots." She returned to the stage in 2013 after a three-decade absence from Broadway, in a production of "The Trip to Bountiful," winning a Tony Award, and, in 2015, at age 90, joined James Earl Jones, a youngster at 84, in "The Gin Game."

    The following year, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama and, in 2018, an honorary Oscar.

  • Cicely Tyson:

    I know that you didn't want me to do this.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    She recalled her religious mother, who didn't want her to go into acting.

  • Cicely Tyson:

    But I did.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Just this week, Tyson published a memoir, "Just as I Am," the story of an extraordinary life that left a mark.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Simply extraordinary, she was.

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