Hollywood legend Sidney Poitier has died at age 94.

The barrier-breaking Bahamian-American actor, who was the first Black man to win the Oscar for Best Actor, died on January 6. His death was announced by Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell and confirmed by a source close to the actor’s family, according to NBC News.

Poitier is survived by his wife of 45 years, Canadian actor Joanna Shimkus, and his six daughters.

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Poitier had a number of “firsts” in his career. He was the first Black actor to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in 1958’s “The Defiant Ones” opposite Tony Curtis. He would become the first Black actor to win the award in 1964 for his role in “Lilies Of The Field”. Poitier was also the first Black man to kiss a white woman on film in 1965’s “A Patch Of Blue” with Elizabeth Hartman.

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Sidney Poitier’s Career Highlights

In his emotional Oscars speech, he called his win a “long journey to this moment.”

Throughout his career, which included roles in “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”, “In the Heat Of The Night”, and “A Raisin In The Sun”, Poitier refrained from playing any character that could be deemed “immoral” or “cruel.”

“If you go through my career, you’ll find that I didn’t. I didn’t ever,” he told CBS in 2013. Poitier retired from acting in 2001.

A tireless civil rights activist, Poitier was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2009.

Tributes poured in following news of his death.




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Black Entertainment History: Celebrity Firsts