Sidney Poitier, Hollywood’s first major Black movie star, has died aged 94, the Bahamas government announced Friday.
Poitier, who held dual US and Bahamian nationality, was “an icon, a hero, a mentor, a fighter, a national treasure,” Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper said on his official Facebook page.
The celebrated thespian became the first Black star nominated for an Academy Award with 1958’s “The Defiant Ones” and, six years later, was the first to win the best actor Oscar for his performance in “Lilies of the Field.”
Poitier achieved mainstream popularity with a series of groundbreaking roles at a time of great racial tension in America in the 1950s and 1960s.
He balanced success with a sense of duty to choose projects that tackled bigotry and stereotypes, including his 1967 classics “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “In the Heat of the Night.”
“I was conflicted with great sadness and a sense of celebration when I learned of the passing of Sir Sidney Poitier,” Cooper said Friday.
“Sadness that he would no longer be here to tell him how much he means to us, but celebration that he did so much to show the world that those from the humblest beginnings can change the world.
“He will be missed sorely, but his is a legacy that will never be forgotten.”
Poitier was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2002 for his “extraordinary performances” on the silver screen and his “dignity, style and intelligence” off of it.