Sir Sidney Poitier, Trailblazing Actor & Activist, Dies at 94

Another Black Hollywood icon has joined the ancestors.

Sir Sidney Poitier, a trailblazing actor and activist with a career spanning over 7 decades, has passed away at the age of 94. According to HuffPost, his passing was confirmed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs in his native country of The Bahamas on Friday. At press time, no further details of his death were confirmed.

Poitier’s career was one of many firsts. Most notably, he was the first Black man to win an Oscar for Best Actor for his role in 1963’s Lilies of the Field. He was also the first Black romantic lead on film (Paris Blues), the first Black man to win an international film award (Venice Film Festival in 1957), and one of the first to positively portray an interracial couple on screen, starring alongside Katharine Houghton in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Other notable films include In The Heat of the NightPorgy and Bess, and To Sir, With Love. 

Aside from acting, Poitier was a strong supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, attending the March on Washington alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as showing his support of the Poor People’s Campaign. Dr. King noted Poitier as “a man of great depth, a man of great social concern, a man who is dedicated to human rights and freedom.”

Poitier received countless accolades over the years, including the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1974, and being named the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan in 1997.

He leaves behind his wife of 45 years, Joanna, and five of his six daughters (including actress Sydney Tamiia Poitier). He was preceded in death by daughter Gina in 2018.