Legendary actress Cicely Tyson is set to receive a Peabody Award for Career Achievement. The awards, handed out by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, seek to recognize those in television, radio, and online media that invigorate, inspire or educate.
In Tyson’s case, the Career Achievement Award seeks to honor those “whose work and commitment to broadcasting and digital media have left an indelible mark on…American culture.” Tyson has a career spanning all the way back to the 1950s and received the award for being a figure in the advancement of programming that changes the culture, and specifically transformed how black Americans are considered, both in media and off-screen.
“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,” said Jeffrey P. Jones, executive director of Peabody in a statement. “She was a seminal figure of her time, and ahead of her time.”
Also making a statement via video tribute, Oprah 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.”
In discussing their reason for giving her the award, the Peabody Jury championed Tyson’s social justice, as well as “challenging our ethical and moral bearings.”
Despite her lengthy work in film and television Tyson has only been nominated once for an Oscar and Golden Globe, both for her performance in the 1972 feature “Sounder.” She would receive an honorary award from the Motion Picture Academy in 2019. She has also been nominated 15 times for Primetime Emmys, winning once in 1974 for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” Her last four nominations have been for her role as Ophelia Harkness on ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder.”
The remaining Peabody Awards will be announced on June 10.