Hollywood, and the world as a whole, has lost one of the most impactful actors to ever grace the silver screen as groundbreaking actor, Sidney Poitier, has died at 94. Poitier was the first Black person to ever win an Academy Award for best actor. He transformed how Black people were portrayed on screen, and greatly shifted the film industry and the world.
Poitier is an inspiration for not just Black actors, but for all actors who strive for something more in the industry. Time Magazine said that Poitier “helped reshape that [World War II era] world to such a degree that we’ll never be able to reckon fully with his impact. All actors owe him a debt, and all Americans do, too.” Poitier arrived on the film and theater scene in post-WWII America, a time in which the world was trying to put itself back together. His rise also coincided with the Civil Rights era as racial attitudes began to evolve and segregation laws were being challenged. Poitier was the actor a nervous industry turned to for stories of progress.
Poitier was born in Miami in 1927 while his parents were visiting from their home of Cat Island, in the Bahamas. His parents were tomatoes farmers, and Poitier was the youngest of seven children. He grew up in Cat Island with his parents until he moved to Miami to live with his older brother at 15. From there, Poitier traveled to New York by bus and later began his acting career. Since then, he has stared in countless movies such as “The Defiant Ones,” “A Patch of Blue,” “Lilies of the Field,” and “A Raisin in the Sun.” His performance in “Lilies of the Field won him an Academy Award for best actor, the first time a Black actor ever won, and continued to grow in popularity. Poitier’s impact was felt around the globe and will be continued to be felt for generations to come.