Cicely Tyson passed away Thursday at the age of 96.
In 1974, she starred in the CBS TV movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, based on the Ernest J. Gaines novel, in the title role that won her the Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Drama and Actress of the Year, which was a thing they did back then. You can watch the entire film above.
The story is set just 14 years earlier, amid the Civil Rights Movement in the American South in 1960. It's Miss Jane Pittman's 110th birthday, and she's approached to take part in an act of civil disobedience. The activists believe her presence as a former slave, whose lifespan bridges the gap between the Emancipation Proclamation and this Civil Rights era, will inspire others to march in protest of segregation. She is hesitant to get involved, but after relating her remarkable life story to a journalist from New York, she makes her way down to the courthouse to become a part of the movement.
This film predated the worldwide phenomenon Roots by three years, winning nine Emmy Awards in total. Tyson was not compensated well for her efforts. In fact, Tyler Perry, with whom she formed a close working relationship since the 2005 film Diary of a Mad Black Woman, made it a point to overpay her for her work to make up for how underpaid she was for her most critically acclaimed work.
Was just reading about Cicely Tyson's new memoir this morning, and thought this was really decent of Tyler Perry. RIP to a legend. pic.twitter.com/ZpBgh7EpYw— ItsTheReal (@itsthereal) January 29, 2021
Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.