30 Most Inspirational Cicely Tyson Quotes About Black Womanhood & Being A Trailblazer

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Cicely Tyson Quotes

If there was one word to describe Cicely Tyson, it would have to be: iconic.

She was an Emmy and Tony winning actress who shattered racial stereotypes and became a known figure within the Black community. Her passing on January 28th has left people mourning the loss of one of the greatest.

In her decades worth of on-screen roles, Tyson managed to portray Black women as strong as they are in real life. She was also a pioneer for civil rights, and was the first Black woman to wear her hair naturally on television. 

At 93, she won an honorary Oscar, and was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2018 and into the Television Hall of Fame in 2020.

She also snagged a career achievement Peabody award in 2020.

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Cicely Tyson was a trailblazing force, and a huge role model for many Black people.

Here are 30 of the most inspirational Cicely Tyson quotes:

1. “I am the character, until I go home.”

2. “I think when you begin to think of yourself as having achieved something, then there's nothing left for you to work towards. I want to believe that there is a mountain so high that I will spend my entire life striving to reach the top of it.”

3. “In my early years, there were a number of experiences that made me decide I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress. There were a number of issues I wanted to address. And I wanted to use my career as a platform.”

4. “You never know what motivates you.”

5. “Age is just a number. Life and aging are the greatest gifts that we could possibly ever have.”

6. “One of the things I have always said about the man-woman relationship is that I don't want anybody to walk ahead of me, and I don't want anybody to walk behind me. I want a man who will walk along beside me. And that's how I feel about equal rights.”

7. “When I told my mother that I wanted to be an actress, she said, you can't live here and do that, and so I moved out. I was determined to prove her wrong because she was so sure that I was going to go astray. And that's the juice that kept me going.”

8. “I have learned not to allow rejection to move me.”

9. “I don't think you can measure wealth in dollars and cents. I really don't believe that at all because there are some things that money cannot buy. One of them is health. And the other is security in your relationships and friends.”

10. “The choices of roles I made had to do with educating and entertaining. And as a result I found myself working only every two or three years.”

11. “My gratification in working comes from the preparation and the building of the character.”

12. “The moment anyone tries to demean or degrade you in any way, you have to know how great you are. Nobody would bother to beat you down if you were not a threat.”

13. “I am not a quitter. I will fight until I drop. It is just a matter of having some faith in the fact that as long as you are able to draw breath in the universe, you have a chance.”

14. “Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They're what make the instrument stretch — what make you go beyond the norm.”

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15. “If each person in this world will simply take a small piece of this huge thing, this amazing quilt, and work it regardless of the color of the yarn, we will have harmony on this planet.”

16. “Whatever good I have accomplished as an actress I believe came in direct proportion to my efforts to portray Black women who have made positive contributions to my heritage.”

17. “All I have to do is find someone who has something to say that will enrich my life and they can't get rid of me.”

18. “I will lead my people out of bondage, Lord.”

19. “I don't condemn anyone for making their choices. If someone chooses those roles, fine. But not for me. When someone stops me and says, You're the reason I became an actress, that lets me know I made the right decision.”

20. “I was in California when this journalist made a blanket statement about the fact that she did not think that black men and women had the kind of love relationship that Rebecca and Nathan had in Sounder.

21. “I'm a firm believer in divine guidance.”

22. “I am the sum total of each one of the women I have played.”

23. “In my work, people say I'm strong. But I'm not aware of any of it. If I were conscious of it, that can only get in the way of future performances.”

24. “I've never encouraged anyone to go into this business. But I would never discourage  anybody either, because no one could discourage me.”

25. “I want to be recalled as one who squared my shoulders in the service of Black women, as one who made us walk taller and envision greater for ourselves.”


26. “The glitter, the ribbons, the garnish I’ve experienced during my life — as wonderful as those things are, I have little desire to reflect on them solely. What I am far more interested in is the tree that represents my life and strength and condition of its roots.”

27. “I wait for roles — first, to be written for a woman, then, to be written for a Black woman. Then I have the audacity to be selective about the kinds of roles I play. I’ve really got three strikes against me. So, aren’t you amazed I’m still here?”

28. “I’ve never really worked for money. It’s so important for me to have peace of mind, body, and soul than to have all the riches.”

29. “Unless a piece really said something, I had no interest in it. I have got to know that I have served some purpose here.”

30. “Now, I am perfectly willing to just enjoy my career by choosing roles simply because I consider them to be a challenge and doing the best possible job I can.”

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.