Sidney Poitier, a Titan of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Passes Away at 94
The actor, who was the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, garnered numerous awards and nominations for breaking racially imposed barriers in the film industry throughout his career.
Sidney Poitier, one of the first Black movie stars in Hollywood and an icon of the silver screen from the 1940s through the 1990s, has passed away at the age of 94.
Over the course of his career, Poitier starred in some of the most consequential films in American cinema, including “In the Heat of the Night,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Lilies of the Field.” The former two films, both released in 1967, are considered groundbreaking works for their honest depictions of racial tension and interracial marriage during Civil Rights-era America.
Poitier won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964 for his portrayal of Homer Smith in “Lilies of the Field” — making him the first Black man in movie history to achieve that honor.
Poitier’s list of overall distinctions are countless: three Oscar nominations, 10 Golden Globe nominations, two Emmy nominations, six BAFTA nominations, one SAG Award nomination, a Kennedy Center Honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Grammy, and lifetime awards from the Screen Actors Guild, Globes, and Academy.
“Sidney Poitier does not make movies, he makes milestones,” said President Barack Obama upon awarding Poitier the Medal of Freedom in 2009. “Milestones of America’s progress, on screen and behind the camera ... Poitier not only entertained, but enlightened, shifting attitudes, broadening hearts, revealing the power of the silver screen to bring us closer together.”
In 2013, Poitier told CBS, “If the screen does not make room for me in the structure of their screenplay, I'll step out. I'll step back. I'd step back. I couldn't do it. I just couldn’t do it,” referring to his decision to turn down film roles that risked portraying him in a negative manner.
Across the internet, fans and fellow actors, including Whoopi Goldberg and Viola Davis, are paying tribute to the actor and his legacy.
Davis tweeted, “This is a big one. No words can describe how your work radically shifted my life. The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and sheer electricity you brought to your roles showed us that we, as Black folks, mattered!!! It was an honor…”