Sidney Poitier, the Bahamian-American actor who broke numerous Hollywood barriers in the 1950s and 1960s — most famously in 1964 when he became the first Black man to win the Oscar for best actor — has died, Bahamian news outlets reported Friday, citing the country’s minister of foreign affairs. He was 94.
Details on the timing and manner of his death were not immediately available.
Over his career, Poitier was repeatedly the “first.” He became the first Black man to win an international film award at the Venice Film Festival in 1957; the first to be nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards in 1958; and, of course, he became the first to win it for “Lilies of the Field.”
“I had a sense of responsibility not only to myself and to my time, but certainly to the people I represented,” Poitier said in 2008. “So I was charged with a responsibility to represent them in ways that they would see and say, ‘OK, I like that.’”
In 1969, while reviewing the Poitier film “The Lost Man,” The New York Times’ Vincent Canby wrote, “Sidney Poitier does not make movies, he makes milestones.” In part, Canby meant the line as a jab at Poitier, who continued to work with men whom Canby viewed as “second-rate directors.” But it was also an unquestionable nod to the long list of firsts already associated with Poitier’s name by that time.