Sidney Poitier Dead at 94

Sidney Poitier

Getty Sidney Poitier in 2008.

Legendary actor and director Sidney Poitier died at age 94, according to TMZ, the first outlet to report the news.

The outlet confirmed the news of the actor’s death with the office of the Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs on Friday, January 7, 2022. According to journalist Roland Martin, Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said Friday that Poitier “passed away last night.” The details surrounding the death, including the cause and location of his death, have yet to be revealed.

Funeral arrangements have also not yet been revealed.

Here’s everything we know about Sidney Poitier:

Poitier Was a Trailblazer for Black Actors & Was the First Black Actor to Earn an Oscar

According to the New York Post’s obituary of Poitier, the actor’s career spanned 71 years and he’s best known for his roles in movies like “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Uptown Saturday Night.”

Poitier got his start in the entertainment industry when he moved from the Bahamas to New York City at age 16, according to a PBS biography. While in NYC “he began working as a janitor at the American Negro Theater in exchange for acting lessons,” according to the bio. He served as an unnamed extra in the film “Sepia Cinderella,” according to IMDb, but his real film debut came in 1950 when he played Dr. Luther Brooks in “the racially charged” movie “No Way Out,” the New York Post reported.

Poitier continued to break barriers when he became the first Black actor to be nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Actor category in 1959 for his 1958 role in “The Defiant Ones,” according to PBS, and he was nominated in the Best Actor category of the Golden Globe Awards for the same film. He also earned a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor for “The Defiant Ones.”

He was nominated for a Golden Globe again in 1960 for “Porgy and Bess” and 1962 for “A Raisin in the Sun” but didn’t win until 1964, when he was honored as Best Actor – Drama for his role as Homer Smith in “Lilies of the Field.” He also took home an Academy Award for Best Actor for the same film in 1963, the first time a Black man had ever earned the honor.

He went on to earn three additional Golden Globe Best Actor nominations by 1992 and was honored with the Cecil B. deMille Award in 1982 and the World Film Favorites award in 1969. In 1992 he was honored with the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was given a place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 1994.

All told, he was nominated for industry awards 41 times and won 28, according to IMDb.

Barack Obama Presented Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009

In 2009, the first Black American president, Barack Obama, presented Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “Sidney Poitier is an actor known for breaking racial barriers. He is the first African American to be nominated and win a Best Actor Academy Award,” a White House announcement at the time read.

“In front of Black and white audiences struggling to right the nation’s moral compass, Sidney Poitier brought us the common tragedy of racism, the inspiring possibility of reconciliation and the simple joys of everyday life,” an announcer said during the ceremony, adding that Poitier, like his characters, “would advance the nation’s dialogue on race and respect.”

“I chose to play only those parts that would reflect how I viewed myself and how I viewed my country,” Poitier told the Associated Press in 1995 ahead of receiving a Kennedy Center Honor.

Tributes to Poitier Flooded Social Media

Fans, fellow actors and members of the media offered their tributes to the actor on Friday.

“this man is a bonafide, top notch, legend of the highest caliber. a true loss. rip sidney poitier,” journalist Oliver Willis tweeted. “I was thinking, literally yesterday, that someone should reach out to Sidney Poitier for one last interview before it was too late. RIP to a trailblazer,” journalist Wesley Lowery tweeted.

“What a landmark actor. One of a kind. What a beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man. RIP, Sir. With love,” another person tweeted.

i am deeply saddened by sidney poitier’s passing. he had the rare combination of charisma and skill that made him the perfect movie star. his legacy endures and blazes the path forward,” a fan tweeted

“Watching Sidney Poitier as a kid in A RAISIN IN THR SUN & GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER was like watching history unfold. He gave many Black artists their spark because of how he broke barriers in during the Golden Age in Hollywood. A true legend who created a legacy for us all,” another fan tweeted.

“I’ve posted this picture before, but while many remember #SidneyPoitier for his acting, I just want to acknowledge he was also a righteous freedom fighter,” author Bakari Sellers tweeted along with a photo of Poitier with Martin Luther King Jr.

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