Sidney Poitier, first Black man to win Best Actor Oscar, dies at 94

Hollywood legend Sidney Poitier, who won countless awards as a trail-blazing actor, died Friday in the Bahamas at 94.

The actor’s death was confirmed by a source close to the family to NBC News. No cause of death was immediately released.

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Poitier was a trailblazer in the Hollywood film industry, making his film debut in 1950′s “No Way Out.” But it was 1963′s “Lilies of the Field” that earned him an Oscar for best actor, the first to go to a Black person, The Associated Press reported.

In 1968, Variety ran a headline saying “Poitier is the biggest film actor of the year, black or white.” The year prior, Poitier starred in “In the Heat of the Night,” “To Sir, With Love” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” earning him $750,000 per film, Variety reported.

More recently, Poitier’s contributions to the world of film have been honored in different ways. Arizona State University named its new film school “The Sidney Poitier New American Film School” in a ceremony in Jan. 2021, The Associated Press reported at the time. The program is designed to be one of the “largest, most accessible and most diverse film schools,” the AP reported.

Sidney Poitier was born Feb. 20, 1927 in Miami, Florida but grew up as a native of Cat Island, the Bahamas, according to IMDB. Poitier moved to New York at 16, and soon began working as a janitor for the American Negro Theater in exchange for acting lessons, PBS reported. It was while working at the theater that Poitier was given the opportunity to be Harry Belafonte’s understudy in the play “Days of our Youth.” Poitier made his public debut filling in for Belafonte one night, PBS reported.