Best Known For
Sidney Poitier became the first black Academy Award winner in 1964, receiving the honor for his performance in Lilies of the Field (1963).
Sidney Poitier - Best Actor (1:13)
Watch a short video about Sidney Poitier and find out how this Bahamian actor became the first African-American to win an Oscar for Best Actor.
As Sidney Poitier returned to Hollywood in 1987, he found it difficult to attain roles of significance.
Sidney Poitier's elegance and class put him at a disadvantage as an African-American actor as he searched for roles during the Blaxploitation era of film.
After becoming the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, Sidney Poitier's role in the Civil Rights Movement became more visible.
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He was especially upset by a harsh article about him in The New York Times and decided to step out of the spotlight for a time. Poitier lived in the Bahamas before making his return to Hollywood.
Poitier teamed up with friend Harry Belafonte for the western Buck and the Preacher (1972),
which also marked Poitier's directorial debut. The pair appeared in the comedy Uptown Saturday Night with Bill Cosby in 1974. In 1980, Poitier directed the successful Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder comedy Stir Crazy.
After roughly 10-year absence from the big screen as an actor, Poitier returned with a pair of dramas in 1988—Shoot to Kill and Little Nikita. Other notable later films include Sneakers (1992) and One Man, One Vote (1997). On the small screen, Poitier earned accolades for portraying some of history's famous men. He played U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in Separate but Equal in 1991 and South African leader Nelson Mandela in Mandela and De Klerk in 1997.
Retired from acting, Poitier has turned his attention to sharing his many personal experiences. He penned The Measure of a Man, which was billed as a spiritual autobiography and published in 2000. That same year, Poitier picked up a Grammy Award for best spoken word album for the audio version of the book. He shared his years of wisdom for future generations with 2008's Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter.
Poitier has received numerous honors during his legendary career. In 2009, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. Poitier was also feted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 2011, earning the organization's Chaplin Lifetime Achievement Award.
Poitier was married to Juanita Hardy from 1950 to 1965, and together they had four children: Beverly Poitier-Henderson, Pamela Poitier, Sherri Poitier and Gina Poitier. He is currently married to Canadian-born actress Joanna Shimkus, and they have two children, Anika Poitier and Sydney Tamiia Poitier.
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 non-resident Bahamian ambassador to Japan and to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
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