Legendary, iconic, trailblazer; these are just a few ways you could describe actor Sidney Poitier. From his Oscar to his activism, Poitier changed the way Hollywood looked.
Remembered for paving the way for other Black actors, Poitier created quite the name and resume for himself. Sadly, the In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner actor passed away on January 6.
Legendary Oscar-Winning Actor Sidney Poitier Remembered as a Trailblazer Following the News of His Death
Poitier was 94 years old. According to NBC News, the iconic actor was the first Black man to win an Oscar in 1964 for his role in Lilies of the Field. Poitier was the only African American Oscar winner for many years after that as well, until Denzel Washington won in 2002.
Often the only Black person on set during the height of his career, Sidney Poitier once said, “I felt very much as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every move I made.” But his accolades don’t stop there.
As NBC News reports, in 1995, Poitier received the Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, two Golden Globes, and one Grammy.
Born to Bahamian parents, Poitier was actually born in the United States on February 20, 1927, while his family was vacationing in Miami. As a teenager, Poitier moved to America and enlisted in the U.S. Army where he served in a medical unit.
After his time in the military, Poitier moved to New York City where his acting career began with American Negro Theatre. He was initially turned away from the group due to his accent. However, he reapplied after working on his enunciation, NBC News reports.
In a 1967 interview, Poitier made it very clear that he chose roles with great consideration. “The kind of Negro played on the screen was always negative, buffoons, clowns, shuffling butlers, really misfits. This was the background when I came along 20 years ago and I chose not to be a party to the stereotyping.”
He continued, saying, “I want people to feel when they leave the theater that life and human beings are worthwhile,” Poitier added. “That is my only philosophy about the pictures I do.”
Sidney Poitier is survived by his six children, all daughters, and his second wife, Joanna Shimkus. Our thoughts are with Poitier’s family.
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