Black History Month, Week 3: Sidney Poitier

February 18, 2022 / Mb Staffing

Sidney Poitier played many prominent roles that cultivated the landscape of American cinema: from a renegade convict forming a deep bond with an unlikely friend in “The Defiant Ones,” to a doctor that faced accusatory lawsuits of the brother that assaults Dr. Brooks with racial slurs because of his brother’s death on the operating table in “No Way Out,” Mr. Poitier is an icon with a deep resume of many accolades that have been unsurpassed.

Sidney Poitier most prominently became the first Black man to win the Academy Award for best actor, for “Lilies of the Field.” This movie explores a traveling handyman, who takes on repair jobs and helps a group of emigrate Catholic nuns from Germany. His passion resides beneath his craft in cinema, and many Black actors today mold their performances from Mr. Poitier.

During the beginning of his career, the movie industry was racially segregated, and they were dominated by ‘White-friendly’ performances, which made it difficult for him to begin his career.

Sidney Poitier was permanently born in the United States on February 20, 1927, while his parents resided in the Bahamas. He grew up on Cat Island, Bahamas, and returned to the United States when he was a teenager. He enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and release upon his discharge after serving briefly in a medical unit.  He had a thick accent that made it difficult for him to land an acting gig at American Negro Theatre, so he practiced American enunciation while listening to the accents of radio voices.

His first credited role was Dr. Luther Brooks in “No Way Out.” Poitier trailblazed through his acting career by refusing to submit to patterns of roles that play to racial stereotypes. He was commonly known for his diversity in his films, by playing handman, priest (Cry, the Beloved Country), and a detective in the “Deadly Pursuit” (1988).

After the great success of breaking the barrier of becoming the first Black actor to win an academy award, in 2001 he was presented with an honorary Academy Award for “his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being.” He served as an ambassador to Japan for the Bahamas from 1997 to 2007 after remaining as a dual citizen for the United States and the Bahamas.

Famous actor and legend, Sidney Poitier passed away this year on January 6 at the age of 94. His remarkable legacy was plentiful, and it will continue to shine and inspire many young actors who follow in his shadow.