Before Poitier, African-American actors had to content themselves with playing secondary characters in major studio films. And when these films were shown in the Deep South states, they were simply cut. But Poitier changed the rules of the game. He got his first leading role in the 1955 movie “Blackboard Jungle” which paved the way for “The Defiant Ones”, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best. actor alongside his co-star Tony Curtis. Six years later, in 1964, he made history by winning the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in “Lilies of the Field”, beating other nominees such as Paul Newman, Albert Finney and Richard Harris. When Denzel Washington won the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Training Day in 2002 (becoming the second African American to do so), he said, â’I’ll always be on your tail, Sidney. I will always follow in your footsteps. There is nothing I prefer to do, sir. Washington is just one of the many African-American actors who drew inspiration from Poitier to pursue their passion.
Poitier who survived six children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren last appeared at the Oscars in 2014 to present the Oscar for Best Director alongside Angelina Jolie. Besides his exploits as an actor, Poitier has also directed films like “A Warm December”, “Let’s Do It Again”, “Stir Crazy” and Hanky ââPanky “among others. The legendary actor has also been Ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan from 1997 to 2007. Poitier was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974. He received an Academy Honorary Award, in recognition of his “outstanding achievements as an artist and as a human being In 2002. A few years later, in 2009, Poitier was awarded the highest civilian honor in the United States of America, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.