Tyson dedicated her memoir to her daughter and revealed why she kept their relationship out of the spotlight

By Alexia Fernández
January 29, 2021 07:04 PM
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Cicely Tyson was a screen and TV legend, but the star kept her personal life private —including her relationship with her only daughter.

Tyson, who died on Thursday at the age of 96, opened up about her relationship with her daughter in her memoir Just As I Am, choosing to keep her daughter's real name private and refer to her as "Joan."

The Sounder star also dedicated her memoir, which is out now, to Joan, writing that her daughter was "the one who has paid the greatest price for this gift to all," and signed the dedication, "Love, Mom."

Tyson, who married her first husband Kenneth Franklin in December 1942, gave birth to Joan in February 1943 when she was 18 years old.

Cicely Tyson
| Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

When their daughter was 2, Tyson left Franklin, writing that while he was "a good man," she "felt strongly" about her decision. 

The Oscar-nominated actress worked several jobs to make ends meet and raise her daughter, with the help of her mother. Tyson's dream was to give Joan, whom she affectionately called "my beloved princess," an "education superior to my own."

Tyson would often wake up before the sun rose to prepare her daughter for school until she decided to send Joan to a boarding school miles away from their home in New York City.

The long distance between them, Tyson wrote, was painful.

Cicely Tyson in December 2018
| Credit: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

"I do not regret that I chose to earn a living in the manner in which I did, or that I arranged for Joan to attend school in a world miles north of mine," Tyson wrote. "But I do mourn that my child, during the years she hungered to have me close, felt my absence so profoundly." 

Tyson also opened up about why she so rarely spoke about her daughter, explaining, "Joan felt, as a child, that she had to share me with the world. I give her now, in adulthood, what my heart has always longed to bestow — my undivided focus, along with the full measure of her privacy." 

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On Thursday, the actress' manager Larry Thompson revealed in a statement that Tyson had died.

"I have managed Miss Tyson's career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing," Thompson said. "Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a Star, on top of the tree."