‘When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls’. – Ted Grant
Every single black and white documentation of the late Cicely Tyson is the quintessence of Grant’s words. Cicely Tyson was born on the 19th of December 1924 and she dedicated more than seven decades being a significant narrator of Blackness and Black womanhood in film and TV. At the core of who she was, was a reflection of Black pride and dignity.
Therefore, when Cicely was photographed in black and white, so was the reason she was created.
Cicely’s acceptance of Black womanhood and beauty began with welcoming her characters Jane Pittman, in the 1974 The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Binta in Roots and an African wife in an episode of Between Yesterday and Today with love and respect of they were. In honouring Black women, she vowed to give everything she was to give life to the nothingness that existed of them in scripts. She did that when she sat in a Harlem barbershop to cut her hair with the intention to change the narrative that Black beauty only existed when it resembled the European standard of beauty. The black and white TV stills of Cicely Tyson are testament of how much she took off herself to give back to us in her glorification of the essence of Black beauty and Black womanhood. If her black and white photographs could speak, her eyes would recite monologues of her challenging navigation as a Black woman who sought to construct a world where Black womanhood and Black culture were given the respect that they deserve, for carrying the world in darkness and in light. Her memoir, Just As I Am, symbolizes the documentation of her soul. It is the written form of a black and white record of the essence of Cicely Tyson.