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Cicely Tyson

Emmy-Winning and Oscar-Nominated Actress

Actress, activist and humanitarian Cicely Tyson, a respected and honored talent in American theater and film, who has become an equally admired and dedicated activist and humanitarian. Tyson will also receive the Ideals Award in recognition of her outstanding service and commitment to Dr. King’s principles. A native of New York, Tyson began her career…

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Actress, activist and humanitarian Cicely Tyson, a respected and honored talent in American theater and film, who has become an equally admired and dedicated activist and humanitarian. Tyson will also receive the Ideals Award in recognition of her outstanding service and commitment to Dr. King’s principles.

A native of New York, Tyson began her career in the 1950s as a fashion model. Her first film was an uncredited role in Carib Gold in 1957.

Tyson is perhaps best known for her performance in the title role of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, in which she played a slave woman ranging in age from 19 to 110 and for which she received an unprecedented two Emmy Awards. In addition, she won an Emmy for best supporting actress in the TV film The Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All and was nominated for an Emmy for the NBC series Sweet Justice.

Since the mid-1970s, Tyson has been active in world affairs and humanitarian efforts. As a chairperson for UNICEF, Tyson in 1985 traveled throughout Africa on a fact-finding mission. In 1988, the president of Zimbabwe invited her to participate in a conference called “Children on the Front Line.” That same year she flew to the Ivory Coast to assist in the fund raising for the formation of the children’s organization Ndaya.

A champion for youth, Tyson each year sets aside one month to visit college campuses across the country and speak to students on such topics as human rights, education, race relations, teen pregnancy and self-esteem.

In 1996, the New Jersey Board of Education renamed an East Orange middle and high school, which has 700 primarily underprivileged students, the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts. Tyson teaches a master class there, and says that she considers the naming one of her most meaningful accolades.

She holds a record 12 Image Awards as best actress from the NAACP and has received awards from such civil rights organizations as PUSH, CORE, the SCLC and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, among others.

In 1974, Tyson co-founded the internationally celebrated Dance Theater of Harlem. She currently serves on its board, as well as on the boards of the American Film Institute, Urban Gateways and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. A founding member of the Coalition for a Healthy and Active America, Tyson in 2002 was appointed by President George W. Bush as a commissioner of the National African American Museum of History and Culture.

In 2003, Tyson received the National Women’s Law Center Award, the Ellis Island Family Heritage Award and was a featured speaker at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit.

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