Cicely Tyson was an American actress with a career spanning decades starting in the 1950s. She rose to fame after starring in the 1972 film Sounder – a performance that gained her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.
Since then, she had been involved in several film, television, and stage productions. Apart from the acclaim she earned with The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, she had also received an Emmy for her role in Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.
Tyson’s contribution in the cinema and her portrayal of strong African-American women on the screen had helped diversified roles and opportunities for women in the industry. Her support of civil rights was also recognized and commended by several organizations.
The veteran actress remained diligent and passionate in her craft even in her nineties. In the 2010s, audiences knew her as Ophelia Harkness in the popular series How to Get Away with Murder. She also starred in the award-winning 2011 film The Help.
In 2016, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She also became the first African-American woman to receive an Academy Honorary Award. Tyson died on January 28, 2021, at age 96. In her final weeks, she was promoting her memoir, Just As I Am.
Throughout her career and her life, Tyson valued her work and being able to make an impact in ways she knew how. Not only did she live a long life, she also did her best in everything. Here are 20 Cicely Tyson quotes defining her admirable strength.
Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They’re what make the instrument stretch — what make you go beyond the norm. – Cicely Tyson
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. – Cicely Tyson
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 Tyson
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 Tyson
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. – Cicely Tyson
I have learned not to allow rejection to move me. – Cicely Tyson
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. – Cicely Tyson
You never know what motivates you. – Cicely Tyson
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
Age is just a number. Life and aging are the greatest gifts that we could possibly ever have. – Cicely Tyson
Unless a piece really said something, I had no interest in it. I have got to know that I have served some purpose here. – Cicely Tyson
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. – Cicely Tyson
If each person in this world will simply take a small piece of this huge thing, this amazing quilt, and work it regardless of the color of the yarn, we will have harmony on this planet. – Cicely Tyson
I am the character, until I go home. – Cicely Tyson
I’ve never encouraged anyone to go into this business. But I would never discourage anybody either, because no one could discourage me. – Cicely Tyson
When I told my mother that I wanted to be an actress, she said, you can’t live here and do that, and so I moved out. I was determined to prove her wrong because she was so sure that I was going to go astray. And that’s the juice that kept me going. – Cicely Tyson
The glitter, the ribbons, the garnish I’ve experienced during my life — as wonderful as those things are, I have little desire to reflect on them solely. What I am far more interested in is the tree that represents my life and strength and condition of its roots. – Cicely Tyson
The choices of roles I made had to do with educating and entertaining. And as a result I found myself working only every two or three years. – Cicely Tyson
I’ve never really worked for money. It’s so important for me to have peace of mind, body, and soul than to have all the riches. – Cicely Tyson
Now, I am perfectly willing to just enjoy my career by choosing roles simply because I consider them to be a challenge and doing the best possible job I can. – Cicely Tyson
Share these 20 Cicely Tyson quotes to pay tribute to the late actress.