It was the 79-year-old actress' first Tony and her first time on the Broadway stage since the ill-fated 1983 revival of Emlyn Williams' "The Corn is Green," which just lasted 32 performances.
In honor of the pioneering actress' win, here's a look at some facts and milestones of her long career.
She won a Drama Desk Award in 1962 for her performance in the off-Broadway production of "Moon on a Rainbow Shawl."
Along with James Earl Jones and Louis Gossett Jr., Tyson was part of the original cast of the 1961 off-Broadway production of Jean Genet's "The Blacks," which went on to become the longest-running non-musical off-Broadway play of the decade.
Tyson has a school named after her -- the Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, N.J.
She played the wife of O.J. Simpson's character in a 1969 episode of CBS' "Medical Center."
The actress has refused to play two-dimensional, stereotypical depictions of African American women. "I said I have never -- and never will -- just work for money because I would end up on the psychiatrist's couch and all the money would go to him," she told The Times last year. "I would rather have my peace of mind."
She was discovered by a fashion photographer at Ebony magazine in the 1950s and became a model.
Tyson was married to renowned jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis from 1981 to 1988.
She received a best actress Academy Award nomination for her warm performance as the matriach of a sharecropping family in 1972's "Sounder."
She won two Emmys -- best lead actress in a drama and actress of the year -- for her performance as a 110-year-old former slave in the 1974 TV movie "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman."
She earned Emmy nominations for 1977's "Roots" and 1978's "King" and won another Emmy for 1994's "The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All."
Tyler Perry has cast her in several of his films, including 2005's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and 2006's "Madea's Family Reunion." Last year, she played his grandmother, Nana Mama, in the thriller "Alex Cross."
She caused a firestorm of controversy 50 years ago when she decided to wear her hair natural, not straight, when she was a regular on the George C. Scott CBS drama "East Side, West Side."
"I wish I had kept the bags of negative mail because of the way I was wearing my hair on the show," Tyson told The Times. "I tore them up and threw them away."