Sidney Poitier, one of the last stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age whose barrier-breaking career spanned more than seven decades, has died. He was 94.
Clint Watson, press secretary for the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, confirmed to CNN that Poitier died Thursday evening.
In 1964, he became the first Black man to win an Oscar for best actor for his performance in “Lilies of the Field.” Some of his other major films of the decades were “A Raisin in the Sun,” “To Sir, With Love,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”
Many of his best-known films explored racial tensions as Americans were grappling with social changes wrought by the civil rights movement.
Poitier’s movies struggled for distribution in the South, and his choice of roles was limited to what white-run studios would produce. Racial taboos, for example, precluded him from most romantic parts. But his dignified roles helped audiences of the 1950s and 1960s envision Black people not just as servants but as doctors, teachers and detectives.
Besides his historic Oscar win, Poitier was the recipient of other major honors: A BAFTA, two Golden Globes — including the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award — a Grammy, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Funeral arrangements for Poitier have not been announced.