The Obamas pay tribute to Cicely Tyson

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Actress Cicely Tyson (R) is greeted by U.S. President Barack Obama (L) after she was presented with an honorary degree during the 2016 commencement ceremony at Howard University May 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama is the sixth sitting U.S. president to deliver the commencement speech at Howard University.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Actress Cicely Tyson (R) is greeted by U.S. President Barack Obama (L) after she was presented with an honorary degree during the 2016 commencement ceremony at Howard University May 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama is the sixth sitting U.S. president to deliver the commencement speech at Howard University. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Iconic Emmy- and Tony-award winning American actress Cicely Tyson (96) passed way on Thursday, 28 January. The news of her passing were confirmed by her longtime manager, Larry Thompson. 

This comes just days after Tyson had published her memoir titled Just As I Am. 

"I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing," Thomposon said in his statement.

"Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a Star, on top of the tree." 

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Tributes from across the globe have since been pouring in for Tyson, including moving tributes by Barack and Michelle Obama. 

Taking to his social media to share the tribute, Obama wrote: 

In her extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson was one of the rare award-winning actors whose work on the screen was surpassed only by what she was able to accomplish off of it.Cicely wasn’t exactly destined for Hollywood. When she was a child, her mother?—?a hardworking and religious woman who cleaned houses?—?didn’t even let her go to the movies.

But once Cicely got her education, she made a conscious decision not just to say her lines but to speak her truth.At a time when parts for actors who looked like her weren’t easy to come by, she refused to take on roles that reduced Black women to their gender or their race. Sometimes, that meant she would go years without work. But she took pride in knowing that whenever her face was on camera, she would be playing a character who was a human being?—?flawed but resilient; perfect not despite but because of their imperfections.

Across all of her performances, in legendary productions ranging from “Sounder” to “The Trip to Bountiful” to “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” she helped us see the dignity within all who made up our miraculous?—?and, yes, messy?—?American family.

Michelle and I were honored when Cicely came to the White House to accept the Medal of Freedom, knowing she was one of the many giants upon whose shoulders we stood?—?a trailblazer whose legacy couldn’t be measured by her Emmys and Tony and Oscar alone, but by the barriers she broke and the dreams she made possible.We are sending our thoughts and prayers to every member of Cicely’s family and to all of those who loved her. And while we are saddened that her heart finally came to a rest today, there is comfort in knowing that she will always live on in ours. 

Also taking to her social media, Michelle Obama wrote: 

What struck me every time I spent time with Cicely Tyson was not necessarily her star power—though that was evident enough—it was her humanity. Just by walking into a room, she had this way of elevating everyone around her.

She was the personification of beauty, grace, wisdom, and strength, carrying forward a flame that not only guided her for 96 pathbreaking years but lit the way for so many of us. I’ll miss her dearly, but I smile knowing how many people she inspired, just like me, to walk a little taller, speak a little more freely, and live a little bit more like God intended.

Other celebrities and well-known personalities also expressed their love and gratitude to Tyson for her immense contribution to the American and global entertainment industry. She's particularly celebrated for the barriers she was able to break as a black woman in film, and the positive impact that had for black women following in her footsteps. 

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