Trailblazing Oscar-winning actor Sidney L. Poitier has died.
The 94-year-old’s illustrious career in the entertainment industry included two other Academy Award nominations and 10 Golden Globe nominations.
Most famously, he became the first Black American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964. “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” were his most iconic films.
Poitier was one of the last surviving actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
As NBC News reports:
He said he felt a responsibility to represent Black excellence at a time when the vast majority of movie stars were white and many Black performers were relegated to subservient or buffoonish roles.
“I felt very much as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every move I made,” Poitier once wrote about the experience of being the only Black person on a movie set.
He won the best actor Oscar in 1964 for his depiction of an ex-serviceman who helps East German nuns build a chapel in “Lilies of the Field.” The first Black man to win that honor, he remained the only one until Denzel Washington in 2002 — the same year Poitier received an honorary Oscar “in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human.”
Poitier was born prematurely Feb. 20, 1927, in Miami, to Bahamian parents while they were on vacation in the United States. He grew up in the Bahamas, spending his early years around his father’s tomato farm on Cat Island before the family relocated to Nassau. The teenage Poitier returned to the U.S., where he enlisted in the U.S. Army and briefly served in a medical unit.
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