Sidney Poitier became the first African American male Academy Award winner for Best Actor in 1964
Iconic actor and director Sidney Poitier turns 94 today
Sidney Poitier was born on February 20, 1927, in Miami, Florida. He arrived two and a half months prematurely while his Bahamian parents were on vacation in Miami. As soon as he was strong enough, Poitier left the United States with his parents for the Bahamas. At the age of 15, he was sent to Miami to live with his older brother’s family. At the age of 16, he moved to New York City and held a string of jobs as a dishwasher. A waiter sat with him every night for several weeks helping him learn to read the newspaper. He lied about his age and enlisted in the Army during World War II in 1943. He joined the American Negro Theater and later began finding roles in Hollywood. Poitier was nominated for his first Academy Award for “The Defiant Ones,” in 1958. Poitier would become the first actor of Bahamian descent to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for “Lilies of the Field” in 1963 and the first African American male to receive an Oscar. Poitier was appointed a Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1974, which entitles him to use the title “sir,” though he chooses not to do so. He has also served as the non-resident Bahamian ambassador to Japan and to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. He also directed several films, including “Stir Crazy” in 1980 and “Ghost Dad” in 1990. In 2002, Poitier received the 2001 Honorary Academy Award for his overall contribution to American cinema. With the death of Ernest Borgnine, in 2012, he became the oldest living man to have won the Academy Award for Best Actor. In 2009, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
Watch Sidney Poitier win Best Actor at the 1964 Oscars
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