By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Legendary actor Sidney Poitier, who broke barriers and stood for justice and Black lives during the most tumultuous times of the civil rights movement, has died.
Poitier, whose iconic 71-year career, included starring roles in “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Uptown Saturday Night,” was 94. His cause of death has yet to be confirmed.
In an exclusive phone call with the Black Press of America, Bill Cosby said he will miss his long-time friend and co-star. “He was honored by AFI. And, along with many stars of the stage, screen, politics and higher education who came out to speak, I brought with me the paperback of his autobiography and I said of all groundbreaking movies that Sidney starred in this book is the real story of this man and his journey,” Cosby remarked. “I am honored to have been close enough to him and work and work on serious matters.
According to PBS, Poitier moved to New York City at age 16 after living in the Bahamas for several years with his family. In the Big Apple, he found work as a janitor at the American Negro Theater in exchange for acting lessons. From there, he took up acting roles in plays for the next several years until his film debut in the racially charged, “No Way Out.”
Race and social justice would become central themes in much of his work throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s.
A Broadway play focused on the life of the Bahamian born star, who earned his first Academy Award nomination in 1959 for his work in “The Defiant Ones,” is in the works.
As noted in the New York Post, the nomination was significant to America as he was the first African American to be nominated for Best Actor. That role also earned him a Golden Globe win and a BAFTA Award.
Poitier broke even more barriers in 1963 with his hit film “Lilies of the Field.” The following year, Poitier became the first African American to ever win the Best Actor at the Academy Awards.
His career continued to climb for several more years. In 1967 he starred in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” an interracial romance comedy that ruffled feathers in America. Then came other memorable films, “They Call Me Mister Tibbs,” the sequel to the controversial blockbuster “In the Heat of the Night,” and “Uptown Saturday Night” opposite Cosby.
He released several more works; “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (2007)” “Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter (2008).”
“As I entered this world, I would leave behind the nurturing of my family and my home, but in another sense, I would take their protection with me,” he said in “Measure of a Man.” “The lessons I had learned, the feelings of groundedness and belonging that have been woven into my character there, would be my companions on the journey.”