Hollywood’s first black star Sidney Poitier dies aged 94, say senior Bahamas officials

Hollywood’s first black star Sidney Poitier dies aged 94, say senior Bahamas officials

BY AFP,7TH JAN,2022-Sidney Poitier, the legendary actor and Hollywood’s first black star, has died at the age of 94, say senior officials in the Bahamas, where the actor grew up.

Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper made the announcement on Facebook, without mentioning the cause of death. The news was also confirmed by an official from the Bahamian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We have lost an icon, a hero, a mentor, a fighter, and a national treasure,” he said.

Poitier was the first black winner of the best actor Oscar for his role in “Lilies of the Field” in 1964, five years after having been first nominated for the award.

His success was an inspiration for a generation during America’s civil rights movement. His portfolio was enhanced in 1967 when he starred in three films in a single year, at a time when segregation was rife in much of the United States.

This Oct. 8, 2016 file photo shows Sidney Poitier speaking at the 2016 Carousel Of Hope Ball in Beverly Hills, California.

He played a black man with a white fiancee in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, and “In the Heat of the Night” saw him star as Virgil Tibbs, a black police officer confronting racism during a murder investigation.

Other classic films of that era included “A Patch of Blue” in 1965, “The Blackboard Jungle” and “A Raisin in the Sun”.

“I love you, I respect you, I imitate you,” Denzel Washington, another Oscar winner, once told Poitier at a public ceremony.

Sidney Poitier was born in Miami in 1927 and raised on a tomato farm in the Bahamas before moving to New York at the age of 16.

He had little education and struggled against illiteracy, poverty and prejudice. But he went on to become one of the first black actors to be accepted by mainstream audiences in major roles.

He picked his parts carefully, rejecting stereotypical roles and banishing the idea that black actors could only play the likes of shoeshine boys and maids.

In 2002, an honorary Oscar recognised “his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being”.

Poitier had six daughters with two wives and wrote three autobiographical books. He was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1974 and served as the Bahamian ambassador to Japan and to the UN cultural agency UNESCO.

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