Sidney Poitier was the first to help Denzel, Will Smith and other actors.

  • Sidney Poitier was a legend throughout his 71-year-long career.
  • He was admired for his roles in films such as “Lilies of the Field,”For which he was awarded an Oscar.
  • For his transformation of the portrayal of Black men on film, the late actor will be remembered. 

Sidney Poitier enchanted and inspired audiences both on-screen and off throughout his 71-year career — a recurring theme in the tributes many are leaving for the late actor, who died Friday. 

Poitier was 94 years old. He was both the first Black actor and Bahamian to win an Oscar. The cause of his death is still unknown. 

“He was the first to do it, so could I. Sidney was the guy,”Insider was told by Wilson Morales (co-founder of Black Film Critics Circle). “Long before Will Smith. DenzelSidney was the one.” 

Morales spoke out about a New York City event that was held to honor the late actor. He noted how many people attended Poitier. It was evident how respected he was in Hollywood.

“All of Black Hollywood came up for that,” Morales recalled. “That was the event to be at, celebrating Sidney and all he’s done, not only for film, but for humanity.” 

Sidney Poitier on the set of "Lilies of the Field" standing in front of a car.

Sidney Poitier, actor and director, on the set of “Lilies of the Field”, for which he was awarded the Academy Award in Tuscon (Arizona) for best actor.

Michael Ochs/Getty Images

Poitier was admired for his roles as a film star, such as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “A Raisin in the Sun,”And “Lilies of the Field,”He was awarded the Academy Award for this achievement in 1963. He is known for his efforts to transform the portrayal of Black men in films, refusing stereotypical roles and advocating for more opportunities Black creatives. 

“During my childhood, watching him was a familial experience,”Insider spoke with Thomas Allen Harris. He is a television producer and senior lecturer in Yale University’s Department of Film and Media Studies. His characters were strong and noble but also vulnerable. It was rare in 1960s. This type of representation should be used.” 

Poitier wrote in 2000 about his experiences as an actor during Civil Rights Era. “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography.” 

“We used to petition the Actors’ Equity Association, and we would try to raise the question of more employment opportunities for us, but those of us who petitioned wound up being blacklisted,” Poitier wrote. “I was one of the young Black actors who became persona non grata, charged with being a troublemaker.” 

Poitier’s Advocate for Black ArtistsMany people, including Harris, experienced a profound and life-altering effect. 

Sidney Poitier standing in a crowd at a protest.

Sidney Poitier in support of the Poor People’s Campaign, May 1968

Chester Sheard

“The fact that he was able to establish those kinds of characters on-screen when there was that pressure for African Americans to conform … that was his superpower,” Harris said. “He didn’t have to necessarily react to or kowtow to a white supremacist narrative and that was really powerful.” 

Poitier continues to be praised by many, and they continue to flood in. 

“What a landmark actor. One of a kind. What a beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man,” “Westworld”Jeffrey Wright, actor, tweeted. “RIP, Sir. With love.”

In a Variety interviewDenzel Washington wrote Thursday that he wished Poitier had been with him before he retired. 

“God bless him,”Washington stated. “I missed that opportunity.”

Poitier is survived his six children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 

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