Sidney Poitier is known for breaking barriers.
Sidney Poitier, the Bahamian-American actor who broke numerous barriers in Hollywood during the 1950s and 1960s — most notably in 1964 when he became the first Black man to win the Academy Award for best actor — had died. The country’s minister of foreign affairs confirmed the death, according to local media. He was 94 years old.
Specifics about the time and method of his death were unavailable at the time of this writing. Throughout his career, Poitier was often referred to as “the first.” At the Venice Film Festival, he became the first African-American to win an international film prize; he was the first to be nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards in 1958; and, of course, he was also the first to win the Oscar, for “Lilies of the Field,” in 1963.
Sidney Poitier’s advocacy went beyond the confines of the screen as well. During the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, he saw Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. make his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, which is still remembered today. In 1968, Poitier returned to Washington, D.C. for the second time, this time to support the Poor People’s Campaign, which had been planned in part by King before his assassination.
Sidney Poitier was born on Feb. 20, 1927, in Miami, Florida, to Bahamian parents who were on vacation at the time. He was two and a half months premature and died two months later. Poitier was raised in poverty as the youngest of seven children.
Because his father worked as a tomato farmer, Poitier began working full-time at the age of 13 in order to support his family. Within two years, his family had made the decision to ship him off to the United States in order to seek a better life. A young Sidney Poitier was given three dollars by his father in commemoration of Poitier. His father told him, “Take care of yourself, son.”
Sidney Poitier would later recall gazing back at his father from the boat and said, “He was contemplating if he and my mother had given me enough before I had to go out into the world.” And I believe they did, now that I think about it. “He gave me much more than the three bucks he placed in my palm,” I recall thinking.
After retiring from acting in his senior years, Poitier would receive a slew of accolades, including an honorary Academy Award in 2001 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. In 1997, he was appointed to the position of Bahamas ambassador to Japan. But rather than pursuing awards, he was more interested in improving the lives of people in his immediate vicinity, as well as the lives of those who watched him on television.
As he put it in 2008, “if I am remembered for having done a few good things and if my presence here has inspired some positive energy, then that is more than enough for me.”
Among those who mourn Poitier are his wife, Joanna Shimkus Poitier, and five of his six children: Beverly Tamiia, Pamela, Sherri, and sister Anika Poitier. Gina Poitier, his daughter, passed away in 2018.
Sidney started acting in 1947 on “Sepia Cinderella” for which he wasn’t credited for and his last film was in 2001″The Last Brickmaker In America”.