In 1974, Cicely Tyson simultaneously earned her first and second Primetime Emmy awards (for Best Lead Actress in a Drama and Actress of the Year – Special) as well as a BAFTA (for Best Actress in a Leading Role) for her starring role in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. She would win her third (for Supporting Actress -Miniseries or Movie) 20 years later, playing the titular role in Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.
Perhaps both roles were foreshadowing for Tyson to publish an autobiographical work of her own. As Essence reports, earlier this week, HarperCollins announced that Tyson’s memoir, Just As I Am, will be released on January 26, 2021.
The tome, which was co-written by O Magazine founding editor Michelle Burford, will chronicle Tyson’s career from her lesser-known early days as a model, dancer, and unbeknownst to many, a reported co-founder of the Dance Theater of Harlem with close friend and ballet dancer Arthur Mitchell. She will no doubt also reflect upon her incredible and ongoing six-decade-plus acting career, as well as her tumultuous eight-year marriage to jazz legend Miles Davis.
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The book will detail not only her friendships with iconic actors such as Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Ossie and Ruby Davis, Richard Pryor and James Earl Jones, but will also shed light on her moments with other luminaries, including Maya Angelou, Nelson and Winnie Mandela, Aretha Franklin and even Quincy Jones…along with her friendships with Whoopi Goldberg and Kerry Washington—and her frequent modern-day collaborators, such as Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, and Viola Davis.
“At 95, I’m only beginning to fully understand my identity,” said Tyson in a statement obtained by Essence. “The accolades, the lights, the glamour and glitter—they’re all just ornaments on a tree. It is only a tree’s roots, its origins beneath the soil, that can reveal its entire story.”
“Every one of my experiences on the public stage has been rooted in my upbringing, those years spent at my mother’s elbow and in the pews of my church. That was my world. And that foundation, that core, led me to a lifetime of growth—a wondrous journey that has made me who I am.”