Sidney Poitier lived an extraordinary life through an artistic gift that can only be described as masterful. He was born in impoverished circumstances but rose to greatness and possessed a spirit of excellence and inner dignity that would serve him greatly in his life and career. He infused a level of authenticity into every role he brought to life that left an indelible imprint on the hearts and minds of those who watched him knock down barriers with a fierce strength and boldness that could not be adequately described but was keenly felt through the lens of film.
His fearlessness was on display for decades as his talent carved out a place for his empowering, humanity-affirming performances. He became the first African-American actor to be awarded an Oscar in the best male category for the film “Lillies of the Field.” His historic achievement paved the way for actors of color to follow in his footsteps from Denzel Washington to Halle Berry, who were the next African-American actors to be awarded Oscars for their commanding dramatic performances.
In addition to being a trailblazer in the film industry and making a conscious decision to accept roles that promoted positive depictions of people of color, Poitier was a passionate advocate for racial equality. He fought against racial injustice alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders and activists in the Civil Rights Movement and took part in numerous civil rights causes, including the March on Washington where King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream Speech.”
In both art and life, Poitier stood by his convictions, and his timeless example of courage and value for the humanity and dignity of all people will serve as a beaconing light for generations to come to follow and uphold.
In his book, “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography,” Poitier says, “Acting isn’t a game of “pretend.” It’s an exercise in being real.” He was the epitome of “real” and a supremely authentic actor who exquisitely embodied what it is to be human in every role that he brought to life before our eyes.
While supremely saddened by the news of his passing, those who were inspired by his life’s work are appreciative of the immense gift he left behind – because of that, his heart, soul, and the spirit of dignity and excellence that he exuded in each role he embraced, will speak forever.
Sidney Poitier’s Iconic Films and Roles:
Empower Magazine takes a look back at some of the most inspiring films of one of the greatest actors of our time that changed the landscape of Hollywood.
No Way Out – 1950
Cry, the Beloved Country – 1951
Blackboard Jungle – 1955
The Defiant Ones – 1958
Porgy and Bess – 1959
A Raisin in the Sun – 1961
Paris Blues – 1961
Lilies of the Field – 1963
A Patch of Blue – 1965
To Sir, with Love – 1967
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – 1967
In the Heat of the Night – 1967
They Call Me Mr. Tibbs! – 1970
Brother John – 1971
Buck and the Preacher – 1972
For a full list of movies, visit Sidney Poitier – IMDb.
Photo caption: Oscar®-winning actor Sidney Poitier speaks as part of the award presentation to Honorary Award recipient George Stevens Jr. during the 2012 Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, CA, Saturday, December 1. | Photo credit: Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.