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5 Facts About Sidney Poitier

 

He Was The First African-American Best Actor Oscar Winner

Of course, if you know one thing about legendary actor Sidney Poitier, you know that he was the first African-American to win an Oscar for a leading role, the second win for an African-American (Hatty McDaniel's for his After winning the portrayal of the controversial Mammy character in 1939's Gone with the Wind). Poitier won Best Actor in 1963 for his role in Lily of the Field, but it took 38 years for another African-American actor (Denzel Washington, for Training Day) to win the award. In his speech, Washington said of Poitier, "I will always follow you, Sydney. I will always follow in your footsteps. There is nothing I would do, sir. Nothing but I would." The following year, Poitier won another Oscar for his Lifetime Achievement.

He Grew Up In The Bahamas

Although Poitier was born in Miami after his mother went into labor three months earlier while visiting relatives, he lived in the Bahamas until the age of 15, when he returned to his birthplace and eventually tried his hand at acting. went to New York. He was sent to America with only three dollars from his father, a tomato farmer, with the hope that the country would provide a more prosperous life. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Enlisted in the army, for having lied about his age for this purpose, and worked in a veteran hospital.


He Had Trouble Reading

Poitier soon fell in love with acting, but because of his spotty schooling, he struggled to read the scripts offered at the American Negro Theatre. Fortunately, at the restaurant where Poitier worked, an older man took an interest in his dream, and according to Poitier, "he sat there with me week after week," explaining the punctuation and how it came to be with one line. affects meaning. Eventually, he succeeded in the American Negro Theater and climbed the ladder to Broadway and eventually Hollywood.

He had A Reputation For Elegance

There were very few positive portrayals of black Americans in cinema when Poitier began his work, so he was determined to pursue a career that embodied elegance and dignity. Many of his prominent roles were as struggling men in racist society, such as his turn as a Philadelphia detective solving a murder in Mississippi in In the Heat of the Night, in which "they call me Mr. Tibbs". There were iconic lines. In 1967, he starred in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, an acclaimed comedy featuring an interracial couple that premiered only six months after an interracial marriage, called Loving v. Federally legalized by Virginia.


He Rallied For Civil Rights

The summer of 1964 was known as "Freedom Summer", thanks to civil rights activists who worked tirelessly to register black voters in Mississippi despite violent pushbacks, especially connections to the Ku Klux Klan. with the infamous Mississippi Burning murders of three organizers by local police. After the gruesome murders, Poitier and fellow activist/actor Harry Belafonte personally raised and distributed $70,000 of much-needed funding to field workers. He was eventually driven out of town by armed members of the Klan, but fortunately, no one was hurt.

In 2009, President Obama awarded Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom, commenting that "Sydney Poitier doesn't make movies; it makes milestones. Milestones of Artistic Excellence, Milestones of America's Progress" ...they not only entertained but enlightened, revealed changing perspectives, broad hearts, and the power of the silver screen to bring us closer together."

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