Sidney Poitier, the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, has died at the age of 94.
According to news outlets in the Bahamas, where Poitier’s family hailed from, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell confirmed the actor’s passing on Friday.
Poitier entered the entertainment industry with a role in 1955’s “Blackboard Jungle,” followed by the film “A Raisin in the Sun” in 1961.
Two years later, starred alongside Tony Curtis in “The Defiant Ones,” with both stars receiving Academy Award nominations for Best Actor. In 1964, Poitier won the Oscar and Golden Globe for “Lilies of the Field,” playing a handyman helping a group of nuns build a chapel.
He also won acclaim for his performances in 1959’s “Porgy and Bess,” 1965’s “A Patch of Blue,” and broke ground with three films in 1967 which delved into issues of race – “To Sir, with Love,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” and “In the Heat of the Night.”
Poitier starred in the 1975 movie “Let’s Do It Again” opposite Bill Cosby and Calvin Lockhart, who featured as a character named Biggie Smalls. The pair also starred in the movie “Uptown Saturday Night,” which was also the
name of the popular debut hip-hop album by rap group Camp Lo.
After taking a break from Hollywood in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Poitier appeared in 1988’s “Shoot to Kill” and 1992’s “Sneakers.”
Among his accolades was an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1974, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, and the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in 1982.
Following the sad news, a number of Hollywood stars have taken to social media to pay tribute.
“Sidney Poitier. What a landmark actor. One of a kind. What a beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man. RIP, Sir. With love,” wrote Jeffrey Wright, while Whoopi Goldberg added: “He showed us how to reach for the stars.”
“I’d have to say that maybe Uptown Saturday Night was the first movie I ever watched. (The trilogy of Uptown/Again/Piece of was a staple/steady diet in every 70s household),” Questlove wrote. “You already know I can spew paragraphs of what his activism represented especially in a time that his accolades were happening during the civil rights era—-but man this is more of a personal reflect because of the bonding his 70s movies did for my family & I.”