The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 2018 Governors Awards were held on Sunday, Nov. 18 and awarded actress Cicely Tyson with honorary Oscar. She is the first black actress in the academy’s history to win the honor.
The 93-year-old actress is a well-known face on Hollywood screens and boasts a career that spans nearly 70 years. In those 70 years, Tyson has graced screens as a protective mother, long-suffering wife, wise matriarch, and more. She’s depicted historical and literary characters as well, including Harriet Tubman, Coretta Scott King, Marva Collins, and Jane Pittman.
Beyond her iconic roles, Tyson is a national treasure in the black community and in Hollywood at large. Before this recent honor, she already made cinematic history when she was nominated for an Academy Award 45 years ago for her role as Rebecca Morgan in 1973’s Sounder. She opened her speech with this memory, remarking that it was the very first major motion picture of her career. Tyson made sure to mention her mother, Frederica, in her speech as well. She cited her mother as the person who’s opinion mattered most of all, over any possible award or nomination.
“Mom, I know you didn’t want me to do this, but I did and here it is. For the longest time, I wanted to hear something positive from her. When I did Jane Pittman…she said, ‘I am so proud of you.’ If I had not heard those words from her, none of this would make a difference to me, ” Tyson said in her speech.
Director Ava DuVernay delivered a passionate tribute before Tyson took the stage, emphasizing how Tyson paved the way for so many women in Hollywood, which originated over 121 years ago, making it the oldest film industry in the world.
DuVernay recognized how Tyson allowed countless women to do what she did and more. In an unexpected twist, Tyson turned her thanks back to the women who have followed her paved path and worked to expand it. She mentioned the valuable contributions of Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg, women who have also been nominated for Oscars yet not received the award itself.