The first Black man to win the best actor Oscar has died aged 94, Thursday evening. Sidney Poitier won the Oscar for 1963’s “Lilies of the Field,” in which he played an itinerant laborer who helps a group of White nuns build a chapel. Poitier also received an Honorary Academy Award for his contribution to American cinema. He received two further Academy Award nominations, ten Golden Globes nominations, two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, six BAFTA nominations, eight Laurel nominations, and one Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination. Bahamian-American star Poitier was automatically granted US citizenship after being unexpectedly born in Miami while his parents were visiting in February 1927. He grew up in the Bahamas but moved to America when he was 15. His first lead film role was in 1955’s Blackboard Jungle. In 1967, Poitier starred in three films that addressed the issue of race relations: To Sir, with Love, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night. Poitier had also roles in Porgy and Bess (1959), Paris Blues (1961), A Patch of Blue (1965), Sneakers (1992) and The Jackal (1997).
Poitier was granted a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974. In the 1980s, he directed numerous films, but had the most success with the Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder comedy Stir Crazy. In 1997, he was named the ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan. He retired from acting in 2001. From 1995 to 2003, Poitier served as a member of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company. In 2009, Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor. After 2012, Poitier became the oldest living Best Actor winner in history. He last appeared at the Oscars in 2014 to present Best Director alongside Angelina Jolie.