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Sidney Poitier, First Black Man to Win an Academy Award for Best Actor Passes Away at 94

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Sir Sidney Poitier has passed away, Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell confirmed on Friday (Jan. 7). The acclaimed Bahamian-American actor was 94 years old.

The tragic news was first reported on Friday morning by Our News Bahamas, which tweeted, “Sir Sidney Poitier has died at the age of 94. Our newsteam can confirm that he died last night (Jan. 6).”

Poitier was known for his films Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, Lilies of the Field, Uptown Saturday Night, A Raisin in the Sun and more. In 1964, he became first Black and Bahamian man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field. Throughout his illustrious 71-year career, Poitier also won a Grammy Award, two Golden Globe Awards and a British Academy Film Award.

According to PBS, Miami-born Poitier moved to America from the Bahamas when he was 16 years old. He reportedly worked as a janitor at the American Negro Theater in exchange for acting lessons. He made his film debut in the 1950 movie, No Way Out and landed his first major role in Blackboard Jungle five years later.

Race and social justice were central themes in many of Poitier’s films and in 1959 he became the first Black man to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the film, The Defiant Ones.

Aside from his acting accolades, Poitier was also made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974. In 2009, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and five years later he received the BAFTA Fellowship for outstanding lifetime achievement in film.

After news of Poitier’s passing broke; fans, fellow actors and more celebrated his legacy on Twitter. See some tributes below. Rest In Peace.