Sidney Poitier, the Bahamian-American barrier-breaking actor, film director, activist, and producer, died at 94. The icon’s death was confirmed by Fred Mitchell, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas, according to Eyewitness News Bahamas
Poitier held both U.S. and Bahamian citizenship and began his entertainment journey in the 1940s. Poitier has been credited for breaking Hollywood racial barriers by leading the way as a first Black actor to land film roles and star in them with white actors. Additionally, Poitier opened the door for Black actors to find acceptance playing diverse roles, which defied stereotypes through his path to lead and entertain. The performer who “became the first Black actor to win a Best Actor Academy Award, for “Lilies of the Field” (1963),” poignantly depicted “faith and magnanimity,” Indie Wire reported.
Poitier’s tough climb to make performance strides did not prevent him from positively impacting the entertainment industry through taking a leadership role, too. The icon’s directorial opener began with the Western “Buck and the Preacher” (1972), according to CBS News. He later received an honorary Oscar “in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human,” per the news report.
During Poitier’s long journey, he knew that film roles helped to shape perceptions of Blackness. He courageously stood up for what he could change, despite initial hurdles, such as navigating through limited abilities to work on his own terms. Poitier’s early career was tied to American Negro Theater but he evolved as a visionary who eventually inspired future actors and their opportunities. He also contributed to changing the face of entertainment and how the public could see Blacks portrayed on big screens.
“I was not in control of the kinds of films I would be offered, but I was totally in control of the kinds of films I would do. So, I came to the mix with that power— the power to say, ‘No, I will not do that.’ I did that from the beginning. Back then, Hollywood was a place in which there had never been a To Sir, With Love, The Defiant Ones, In the Heat of the Night or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” Poitier told all Oprah during an interview.