Cicely Tyson's Remarkable Career The highlights of Cicely Tyson's life and career tell a story of personal excellence -- and interesting choices. The Oscar-nominated actress is back on the silver screen in two recent films, and talks with NPR's Ed Gordon about balancing her acting career with her active humanitarian efforts.

Cicely Tyson's Remarkable Career

Cicely Tyson's Remarkable Career

Only Available in Archive Formats.

Cicely Tyson's Remarkable Career

Only Available in Archive Formats.

Tyson is also a well-known lecturer, activist and humanitarian who sets aside one month out of every year to tour U.S. colleges, speaking about topics ranging from human rights, education and race relations to teen pregnancy. She holds a record 12 NAACP Image Awards as best actress and has received awards from such civil rights organizations as PUSH, CORE, the SCLS and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center.

Cicely Tyson in NPR's studios in Culver City, Calif. Toyia Baker, NPR hide caption

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Toyia Baker, NPR

The highlights of Cicely Tyson's life and career tell a story of personal excellence -- and interesting choices. Few know Tyson was the wife of late jazz genius Miles Davis, and was recently acknowledged by President Bush as a driving force in creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Cicely Tyson in a scene from Diary of a Mad Black Woman Lion's Gate Films hide caption

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Lion's Gate Films

She is better known for her roles on television and the silver screen. Her memorable roles include her Emmy-winning turn in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Harriet Tubman in A Woman Called Moses, Kunta Kinte's mother Binta in Roots and an Oscar-nominated turn as Rebecca in the film Sounder.

Tyson, who can pick and choose her roles, recently made two interesting film choices. She appears in the supporting role of Myrtle in Diary Of a Mad Black Woman, and also as a reclusive woman rumored to be a witch in Because of Winn-Dixie.

The film version of Diary Of a Mad Black Woman is adapted from the stage play of the same name by Tyler Perry, which has garnered a huge following. Critics call the new film an interesting mix of high drama and lowbrow comedy that focuses on forgiveness, family and women finding their own identities.