Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier dies at 94

Sidney Poitier, the critically lauded actor who blazed a trail for Black actors in the entertainment industry, has died at the age of 94. The cause of death has not yet been confirmed, although the news is expected to be forthcoming.

The Wrap reported that the death of Sidney Poitier was announced by Fred Mitchell, the Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Although Sidney Poitier was born in the United States, he was raised in the Bahamas. His parents were visiting the city of Miami when Sidney Poitier was born prematurely, granting him automatic U.S. citizenship.

Sidney Poitier moved to the United States when he was 15 years old. After a short stint in the Army during World War II, he began his career in stage acting with the American Negro Theater. His first film role was in the thriller No Way Out, which led to his breakout role as high school student Gregory Miller in Blackboard Jungle. He achieved industry-wide recognition when he starred in The Defiant Ones and became the first male Black performer to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Although he did not win the Oscar that year, he did win the BAFTA.

Film wasn’t the only industry Sidney Poitier would turn upside down. He originated the role of Walter Lee Younger in Lorraine Hansbury’s groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun, and would later reprise his role in the 1961 film version. The stage show, directed by Lloyd Richards, received rave reviews and was one of the first Broadway productions to feature a primarily Black cast.

After the success of A Raisin in the Sun, Sidney Poitier went on to star in Lilies of the Field, where he played an itinerant worker who stumbles across a convent of German nuns. The film would earn him his first Academy Award and make him the first black male actor to take home the golden statuette.

The next few decades would find Sidney Poiter starring in a multitude of successful movies, including In the Heat of the NightTo Sir, with Love, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner alongside Katharine Hepburn. He eventually moved on to directing, helming several comedies during the 1970’s like Uptown Saturday Night and A Piece of the Action. In 1980, Sidney Poitier directed Stir Crazy, a huge financial and critical success that reunited comedy legends Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.

After a lifetime of remarkable achievements, Sidney Poitier received an honorary Academy Award for his body of work in 2002. He was also given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama.

With an awe-inspiring oeuvre of artistic works and a tireless dedication to civil rights activism, Sir Sidney Poitier will be missed by an entire generation of film lovers.

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