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Legendary Sidney Poitier, the first Black actor to win Oscar, passes away at 94

Legendary actor Sidney Poitier, who opened up the doors for the black actors to make it big in Hollywood

Legendary actor and Hollywood’s first major Black movie star Sidney Poitier passed away at the age of 94. He had the singular distinction of winning mainstream popularity as the first Black actor with his roles in 1950s and 60s.

When racial tension was raging in the US during the 1950s and 60s, Poitier took roles in such films that dealt with the subject, bigotry and stereotypes, like the 1967 classics "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "In the Heat of the Night."

The veteran artist was also the first Black actor to be nominated for an Academy Award in the film “The Defiant Ones” in 1958 in which he starred with Tony Curtis as escaped convicts who are chained together. It was in 1964, he won the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor “Lilies of the Field”, a 1963 film in which he played a handyman who helps German-speaking nuns build a chapel. He was the first Black actor to get an Oscar.

He acted on television and depicted icons like South Africa's first black President Nelson Mandela and the first Black justice on the US Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall.

The actor was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1974 while in 2009, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States.

In 2002, Poitier received the honorary Oscar in 2002 for his "extraordinary performances" on the silver screen and his "dignity, style and intelligence" off of it.

Interestingly, the actor held dual US and Bahamian nationality, and from 1997 to 2007 was the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan.

Tributes poured in for the actor from across the spectrum, including actors, directors, and world leaders.