BPL Tribute to Sidney Poitier: Trailblazing Black Actor Died Today at Age 94

Sidney Poitier, the first Black to win a Best Actor Oscar, died at age 94 on January 7, 2022. 

Sidney Poitier, the trailblazing actor who was the first Black person to win a Best Actor Oscar, has died. He was 94. 

His death in the Bahamas was confirmed  today, January 7, 2022, by the island's Prime Minister, according to NPR. Read about Poitier's legacy here.  

As an actor, Poitier transformed the way Black men were portrayed in movies - in part due to his incredible acting skills, smooth good looks and iconic roles that made him a star. 

The Birmingham Public Library and fellow members of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative (JCLC) have several movies and books featuring Poitier available for checkout by clicking here.  

Poitier is best known for famous roles such as:

* Detective Walter Tibbs in 1967's "In the Heat of the Night" 

* A black man's visit with his white girlfriend's parents in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"

* Walter Lee Younger in "A Raisin in the Sun," a 1958 film adaption of Lorraine Hansberry's play ( Poitier also played Younger on stage in Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" play.

Poitier broke the color barrier  in 1964 when he became the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in the movie "Lilies in the Field." His portrayal as Homer Smith, a handyman who helped a group of German nuns trying to build a new chapel, made him a household name.

In 1967, Poitier became a top movie star with roles in three hit movies out that same year -  "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"," "In the Heat of the Night" ," and "To Sir With Love."

In 2009, President Barack Obama gave Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. 

Poitier spent his young years in the Bahamas, where his parents were tomato farmers. He first became a movie star by co-starring with Tony Curtis as a fugitive in the 1958 movie, "The Defiant Ones."

During the 1970s, Poitier used his clout in Hollywood to begin directing and starring in comedies featuring large Black casts. Among his best known: "Let's Do it Again" and "Uptown Saturday Night." Poitier's biggest hit as a director was "Stir Crazy," the classic comedy starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.  

Go to the BPL website and check out one of our many books about Sidney Poitier, such as these pictured below.