Pioneer black movie star Sidney Poitier dies at 94


Sidney Poitier, Hollywood’s first major black movie star who rose to mainstream popularity with a series of groundbreaking roles in the 1950s and 1960s, has died at the age of 94.

Poitier, who held dual American and Bahamian citizenship, was “an icon, a hero, a mentor, a fighter, a national treasure,” Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper said on his official Facebook page.

The famous comedian became the first black star nominated for an Oscar with “The Defiant Ones” of 1958 and, six years later, was the first to win the Oscar for best actor for his performance in “Lilies of the Field” .

Star Trek actor George Takei paid tribute to “a trailblazer who will be mourned by so many to whom he opened the very doors of Hollywood.”

During a time of racial tension in America in the 1950s and 1960s, Poitier balanced success with a sense of duty in choosing projects that grapple with bigotry and stereotypes, including his 1967 classics “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” And “In the heat of the night.”

“I was in conflict with great sadness and a sense of celebration when I learned of the passing of Sir Sidney Poitier,” Cooper said on Friday.

“Sadness that he is no longer there to tell him how much he means to us, but celebration that he has done so much to show the world that those from the humblest beginnings can change the world.

“He will be sorely missed, but he is a legacy that will never be forgotten.”

Poitier received an Honorary Oscar in 2002 for his “extraordinary performances” on the big screen and for his “dignity, style and intelligence”.

On television, he has portrayed historical icons such as South Africa’s first black president Nelson Mandela and the first black United States Supreme Court judge Thurgood Marshall.

And in 1997, he took on a ceremonial post as the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan.

He was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom – the country’s highest civilian honor – by Barack Obama in 2009.

Poitier had been married to his second wife Joanna since 1976 and had six children as well as numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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