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Legendary Oscar-Winning Actor Sidney Poitier Dies At 94

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Sidney Poitier

Acclaimed actor Sidney Poitier, whose elegant bearing and principled onscreen characters made him Hollywood’s first Black movie star and the first Black man to win the best actor Oscar, has died at the age of 94, several news outlets reported Friday.

The legendary actor died Thursday evening, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas confirmed to CNN.

As noted by CNN, “Poitier overcame an impoverished background in the Bahamas and a thick island accent to rise to the top of his profession at a time when prominent roles for Black actors were rare. He won the Oscar for 1963’s “Lilies of the Field,” in which he played an itinerant laborer who helps a group of White nuns build a chapel.”

While his dignified roles helped audiences of the 1950s and 1960s envision Black people not just as servants but as doctors, teachers and detectives, Poitier came under tremendous scrutiny. He was often hailed as a noble symbol of his race. At the same time, he endured criticism from some Black people who said he had betrayed them by taking sanitized roles and pandering to Whites.

“It’s been an enormous responsibility,” Poitier told Oprah Winfrey in 2000, CNN noted. “And I accepted it, and I lived in a way that showed how I respected that responsibility. I had to. In order for others to come behind me, there were certain things I had to do.”

The cause of his death has not been revealed.

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