Skip to main content

Sidney Poitier Fast Facts

By CNN Library
updated 3:31 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Fifty years ago Sunday, Sidney Poitier became the first black performer to win an Academy Award for best actor. Poitier, who won the Oscar for his performance in "Lilies of the Field," was one of the biggest box-office stars of the 1960s, and he remains a Hollywood legend at age 87. Here's a look back at his film career. Fifty years ago Sunday, Sidney Poitier became the first black performer to win an Academy Award for best actor. Poitier, who won the Oscar for his performance in "Lilies of the Field," was one of the biggest box-office stars of the 1960s, and he remains a Hollywood legend at age 87. Here's a look back at his film career.
HIDE CAPTION
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
Sidney Poitier's prominent roles
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>

(CNN) -- Here is a look at the life of Sidney Poitier, award winning actor, and civil rights and anti-apartheid activist.

Personal:
Birth date: February 20, 1927

Birth place: Miami, Florida

Birth name: Sidney Poitier

Father: Reginald Poitier, tomato farmer

Mother: Evelyn (Outten) Poitier

Marriages: Joanna Shimkus (January 23, 1976-present); Juanita Marie Hardy (April 29, 1950-July 9, 1965, divorced)

Children: with Joanna Shimkus: Sydney Poitier, November 1973; Anika Poitier, February 1972; with Juanita Marie Hardy: Gina Poitier, May 1961; Sherri Poitier, July 1956; Pamela Poitier, April 1954; Beverly Poitier, July 1952

Other Facts:
Nominated for two Academy Awards. Winner of one competitive and one honorary award.

Nominated for and winner of one Grammy Award.

Nominated for two Emmy Awards.

Grew up on Cat Island in the Bahamas. The family later moved to Nassau. His parents sent him to live with relatives in Miami at 14. After an encounter with the Ku Klux Klan, he left Miami at 16 and moved to New York.

Lying about his age, he joined the Army at 16. He feigned insanity to obtain a discharge after nine months, and later admitted the ruse in his autobiography, "Measure of a Man."

A heavy Bahamian accent and limited reading ability cost him an acting job at Harlem's American Negro Theater. He overcame the accent by imitating radio announcers and improved his reading skills by studying newspapers.

Has dual citizenship in the United States and the Bahamas.

Timeline:
1946 - First audition after losing his accent earns him the role of understudy to Harry Belafonte in "Days of Our Youth."

1950 - Film debut in "No Way Out," a study of violent racial prejudice.

1959 - First African-American to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actor - "The Defiant Ones" (1958).

August 28, 1963 - One of many Hollywood celebrities in attendance at the March on Washington.

1964 - Wins Academy Award for Best Actor for "Lilies of the Field" (1963). He is the first African-American to win for Best Actor and only the second to ever win an Academy Award. Hattie McDaniel was the first; she won Best Supporting Actress for "Gone with the Wind" (1939).

1967 - Stars in three of the highest-grossing films of the year, "In the Heat of the Night," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "To Sir, with Love."

August 14, 1967 - Keynote speaker at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta.

1980 - Publishes his autobiography, "This Life."

1983 - Nineteen-year-old David Hampton pretends to be "the son of Sidney Poitier" and convinces wealthy New Yorkers to provide him with food, clothing, money and a place to stay. Hampton is charged with grand larceny when his lies are discovered. "Six Degrees of Separation," a stage play in 1990 and a movie in 1993, is based on the story.

1992 - Receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.

1995 - Receives Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award.

April 16, 1997 - Appointed Bahamian ambassador to Japan.

2000 - Publishes second autobiography, "Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography."

2000 - Wins the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for "The Measure Of A Man."

2002 - Receives an honorary Academy Award "in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being."

2006 - Receives the Marian Anderson Award in recognition of his humanitarian and diplomatic work and the Cunard Britannia Award for Lifetime Contribution to International film from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).

2008 - Releases new book "Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter."

July 30, 2009 - Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

May 7, 2013 - His sci-fi book, "Montaro Caine," is released.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT