Sidney Poitier, Oscar-winning actor Passes Away At 94

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Sidney Poitier, whose elegant and noble onscreen personas made him Hollywood’s first Black movie star and the first Black man to win an Oscar for best actor, has passed away. He was 94.

Poitier overcame a poor background and softened his thick island accent to achieve the pinnacle of his profession when it was hard to find roles for Black actors. He obtained the Oscar in 1963 for "Lilies of the Field," portraying an itinerant laborer who assists a group of White nuns.

His most notable performances often concentrated on racial issues roiling the United States in the mid-twentieth century. In 1967 alone, he portrayed a Philadelphia cop who fights bigotry in a small town in Mississippi, "In the Heat of the Night," and a medical professional who wins over his skeptical White fiancée.

Poitier's movies weren't yet being distributed in the South, and his selection of roles was limited by what White-run studios would produce. Racial taboos, for example, prevented him from taking romantic parts.

But his dignified roles helped actors in the 1950s and 60s to imagine Black people not only as servants but also as doctors and attorneys.

At the same time, as the lone Black leading man in Hollywood, he received all sorts of scrutiny. He was often called an esteemed icon of his race.

Various Blacks criticized him by saying that he had disgracefully abandoned them by taking ridiculous roles and imitating Whites.

However, this aside, he has accomplished much and paved the way for many African-Americans.

In 2009, US President Obama congratulated Poitier with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, saying, "It's said that he doesn't make movies, he makes milestones. The Kennedy Center had the grace to describe Poitier's decades-long, artistic milestone of making racial injustice cinematically."

Sidney Poitier will be greatly missed!

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