Cicely Tyson, whose more than seven decades of work across stage, screen and TV includes iconic small-screen roles as Jane Pittman, Coretta Scott King and the mother of Rosa Parks, was unveiled Monday as the recipient of the Peabody Awards’ Career Achievement Award. The honor is bestowed on individuals whose work and commitment to broadcasting and digital media have left an indelible mark on the field and in American culture.
Tyson has been nominated for 13 Emmys in all and won two for 1974’s The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, the start of a run that included such iconic TV series as Roots (1977), King (1978), The Women of Brewster Place (1989), Always Outnumbered (1998), A Lesson Before Dying (1999), Jewel (2002) and The Rosa Parks Story (2002).
Her TV career began in 1951 and also included credits from Naked City, I Spy and Mission: Impossible to Gunsmoke and East Side/West Side. Most recently she has appeared in The Trip to Bountiful (2014), House of Cards (2016), Madame Secretary (2019) and OWN’s Cherish the Day earlier this year.
Tyson was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in January and in 2018 became the first African American woman to win an honorary Oscar. She was Oscar-nominated for starring in Martin Ritt’s 1973 film Sounder.
OWN’s Oprah Winfrey was among those that were a part of a tribute video to Tyson that was part of today’s Peabody announcement (see it below).
“With her award-winning performances, Tyson has taught us to champion a world of possibility for social justice, creativity, vitality, and joy,” the Peabody Board of Jurors said today. “Through her career, she has demonstrated the importance of imagining human freedom, the power of struggle, the grace of sacrifice, and the importance of witnessing in a nation desperate to reckon with itself. Her powerful command of her craft and her lifelong dedication to make work that entertains and challenges helps us find our ethical and moral bearings, inviting us to ponder the qualities that make for an ethical and moral life.”
Added Peabody executive director Jeffrey P. Jones: “Cicely Tyson’s uncompromising commitment to using her craft to address the big issues of her time — gender equality, racial and social justice, equity and inclusion — places her in rare company. And she did so when speaking up and speaking out invited stigma, isolation, and retribution. She was a seminal figure of her time, and ahead of her time.”
The Peabody Awards are based at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia and each year honors the most compelling and empowering stories released in broadcasting and digital media.
The winners for 2019 will be revealed Wednesday after this year’s awards ceremony was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s the Tyson tribute video: