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SIDNEY POITIER

Actor (1924-)

After starring in over 40 films, directing nine and writing four, Poitier's fame only scratches the surface of his many accomplishments that have paved the way for other Black stars.  "It is impossible to understand the impact that Sidney Poitier has had on the film industry," said theatre professor Charles Dumas, who starred in "Separate But Equal" with Poitier.  Dumas added that Poitier pushed the envelope whenever he could to expand the world for Black actors. 

Poitier has appeared before a congressional committee investigating discrimination in filmmaking, and he has refused to work on films that do not employ increased numbers of black talent.  This high level of integrity has been with Poitier since he entered both the country and the film industry.  Poitier was born in Miami but was raised on Cat Island in the Caribbean until the age of 15, when he moved back to the U.S.  He often credits his island upbringing for his integrity, which later helped him battle racism.  Poitier gained recognition after his performance in "No Way Out" in 1950.  His Academy Award nomination for his role in "The Defiant Ones" and he won the Best Actor Oscar in 1963 for "Lillies in the Field" the first Black actor to do so. 

Throughout this time period and into the late '60s, Poitier was one of the highest paid actors in the world.  Even with all of his fame and talent, Poitier took a leave of absence from acting in 1977 after "Piece of the Action," which he filmed with Harry Belafonte and Bill Cosby.  He wanted to spend more time with his family and work on his autobiography, which was published in 1980.  Poitier also directed and wrote some films during his leave, including "Stir Crazy" in 1980 and "Hanky Panky" in 1982.  He returned to acting in 1988 with "Shoot to Kill,' and is most recently remembered for his role in the 1992 suspense film "Sneakers," Beyond acting, Poitier has received many honors, including recognition from the American Museum of the Moving Image (1989) and the first Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. 

 

 

Revised: July 18, 2013.