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Cicely Tyson has been selected as this year’s Peabody career achievement award recipient.
In recognizing the veteran actress, the Peabody Awards praised Tyson for “transforming how African Americans are considered on- and off-screen,” calling her a “foundational figure in the advancement of meaningful programming and social change through her performances.”
Appearing in 23 TV programs and series from 1951-70, Tyson has small-screen credits that include roles in East Side/West Side, Gunsmoke, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Roots, A Lesson Before Dying, The Trip to Bountiful, House of Cards, How to Get Away With Murder and Madam Secretary.
She has received three Emmys, a Tony, a Kennedy Center Honor and an honorary Oscar. She was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her role in 1972’s Sounder.
As the Peabody Awards has canceled the 2020 edition of its awards ceremony due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Tyson was honored with a video tribute featuring messages from Oprah Winfrey, Regina King, Katie Couric and Viola Davis. Winfrey thanked Tyson for “not just paving the way for me and every other Black woman who dared to have a career in entertainment, but being the way — standing for the truth in your art in all ways. And allowing us to be lifted by the light of your illustrious life.”
Peabody executive director Jeffrey P. Jones added, “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.”
And the Peabody board of jurors said in a statement, “With her award-winning performances, Tyson has taught us to champion a world of possibility for social justice, creativity, vitality and joy. 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.”
Tyson joins such recent career achievement award winners as Rita Moreno and Carol Burnett.
The 2020 Peabody Awards winners will be announced Wednesday. Watch the video tribute to Tyson below.
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