New memoir by the late actress, lecturer, and activist Cicely Tyson—one of the most respected talents in American theater and film history.
During a career spanning more than six decades, Cicely Tyson brought to life iconic roles in theater, film, and television, offering us stories that define Black life.
When Tyson was awarded the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Barack Obama stated, “In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history.”
About the book, Tyson shared, “Just As I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.”
From her starring role on Broadway in The Blacks (1961), to the Emmy-nominated 1999 HBO film A Lesson Before Dying, Tyson’s work has garnered critical and commercial applause for more than sixty years. Her two Emmys for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman made her the first African American woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress. In 2013, Tyson won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Miss Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful. A capstone achievement came in 2018, when she became the first Black woman to receive an honorary Oscar. The Board of Governors voted unanimously to honor her with the award, which came 45 years after her Academy Award nominated performance in Sounder.
Viola Davis, Academy, Tony, and Emmy award-winning actress and producer, says, “This book is Ms. Tyson’s abundant treasure to each of us: her life, in her words, just as she is. She shares truths usually whispered between close friends in the dim light of a back bedroom, those candid declarations not often spoken aloud. And she tells her story the way only a black woman can: in all of its dazzling authenticity, heels off and voice undulating, shifting between anguish and exuberance. The art of acting is the art of exposing, an emotional unveiling before others. Ms. Tyson is as revelatory on these pages as she has been on the stage.”
Tyson, who passed on January 28, 2021 at the age of 96, was promoting the book during her final weeks.