Sidney Poitier was a legend in Hollywood, but he wasn’t the first Black actor to win an Academy Award.
SIDNEY POITIER HAS DIED AT THE AGE OF 94, LEAVING AN INCREDIBLE LEGACY ON AND OFF THE SCREEN AS HE BROUGHT DOWN RACIAL BARRIERS, STARRING IN LILY OF THE FIELD, FOR WHICH HE WON THE IMPORTANT BEST ACTOR AWARD IN 1964.
His accomplishments are comparable to those of two other groundbreaking Black artists who have won Academy Awards before him.
When Anne Bancroft announced that Poitier had won the 1964 Best Actor Oscar over Albert Finney, Richard Harris, Rex Harrison, and Paul Newman, the roar from the audience was palpable and deeply moving.
There was history being written.
“Because it has been such a long journey to this moment, I am naturally indebted to countless numbers of people…” he began, clearly overcome with emotion as he grinned broadly and added: “All I can say is a very special thank you.”
Poitier arrived in the United States as a troubled adolescent, having been sent from the Bahamas by a family concerned about his wild behavior.
He lied about his age to enlist in the US army at the age of 16 in 1943.
The following year, he pretended to have mental health issues in order to get an early release.
He tried to start an acting career for the next few years by sleeping in bus shelters and on pavements and working as a dishwasher.
His tone deafness prevented him from joining the American Negro Theatre, which featured music and song in many of its productions.
However, he worked hard at his craft and began to land more dramatic roles, and by 1950, he was being offered screen roles.
Unlike most other minority actors, Poitier began to land unusually layered characters in 1955’s high school drama Blackboard Jungle, followed by his first Oscar nomination in 1958’s Defiant Ones, in which he shared equal billing and award nominations with Tony Curtis.
In 1959, he starred in Porgy and Bess, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, and on Broadway in the groundbreaking A Raisin In The Sun, which introduced white audiences to Black lives in an unprecedented way.
He received a Golden Globe nomination for his role in the film adaptation two years later.
It is his.
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