Actor and activist Sidney Poitier passes away
Sidney Poitier, who broke through racial barriers as the first Black winner of the best actor Oscar for his role in « Lilies of the Field, » and inspired a generation during the civil rights movement, has died at age 94, Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis said on Friday.
« It is with great sadness that I learned this morning of the passing of Sir Sidney Poitier, » Davis said in a speech broadcast on Facebook. « But even as we mourn, we celebrate the life of a great Bahamian: a cultural icon, an actor and film director, an entrepreneur, civil and human rights activist and, latterly, a diplomat. »
Poitier created a distinguished film legacy in a single year with three 1967 films at a time when segregation prevailed in much of the United States.
In « Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner » he played a Black man with a white fiancee and « In the Heat of the Night » he was Virgil Tibbs, a Black police officer confronting racism during a murder investigation. He also played a teacher in a tough London school that year in « To Sir, With Love. »
Poitier had won his history-making best actor Oscar for « Lilies of the Field » in 1963, playing a handyman who helps German nuns build a chapel in the desert. Five years before that Poitier had been the first Black man nominated for a lead actor Oscar for his role in « The Defiant Ones. »
His Tibbs character from « In the Heat of the Night » was immortalized in two sequels – « They Call Me Mister Tibbs! » in 1970 and « The Organization » in 1971 – and became the basis of the television series « In the Heat of the Night » starring Carroll O’Connor and Howard Rollins.
« If you wanted the sky i would write across the sky in letters that would soar a thousand feet high.. To Sir… with Love Sir Sidney Poitier R.I.P. He showed us how to reach for the stars, » Whoopi Goldberg, Oscar winning actress and TV host, wrote on Twitter.
R.I.P. Sidney Poitier 🕊
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Sources: American Film Institute – Reuters The Gardian – 5 News – HipHollywood – UGA Brown Media
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