On His 94th Birthday, Reflect on Sidney Poitier's Incredible Life and Career in Photos

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Born in Miami in 1927, Sidney Poitier was raised in the Bahamas but returned to the States as a teen, acting with the North American Negro Theatre before landing his breakthrough role in 1955’s Blackboard Jungle.

One of the first Black actors to find commercial success, he was also the first Black man to win the Best Actor Oscar, and paved the way for many actors of color who’ve since followed. 

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Relaxing with his first wife, Juanita Hardy, at their home in New York City in 1959. Together, they had four daughters. 

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With Tony Curtis in 1959’s The Defiant Ones, for which he earned an Oscar nomination. 

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On Broadway in 1959’s A Raisin in the Sun; he later starred in the 1961 film version of the story.

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With Diahann Caroll, with whom he had a years-long affair, at the 36th Academy Awards in Santa Monica, California, in 1964.

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Showcasing his historic Oscar for Lilies of the Field at the 36th Academy Awards in 1964. 

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On screen with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, one of the biggest films of his career. The film also drew attention for dealing with race: Poitier played the Black fiancé of a white woman, meeting her parents for the first time.

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With Bill Cosby in 1974’s Uptown Saturday Night, one of a handful of films he also directed. 

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With wife Joanna Shimkus at the Neighborhood of Watts Benefit Dinner at Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills in 1984. Still married, together they have two daughters. 

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Out with three of his six daughters and wife Joanna Shimkus in New York City in the early 1980s.

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With his honorary Academy Award at the 2002 ceremony. He received a minutes-long standing ovation when walking to the mic, and in his moving acceptance speech, spoke of the whiteness of early Hollywood and how the “unselfish” choices of a handful of filmmakers opened doors for him, allowing barriers to be broken for other Black actors and actresses. 

Poignantly that night, Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won the Best Actor and Best Actress awards; Berry was the first Black woman to ever win that honor.

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Receiving the the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.

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With his family at the 6th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 1999.

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Making one of his more recent public appearances at the 2014 Oscars in Los Angeles, presenting Best Director with Angelina Jolie.

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Now 94, Poitier made a rare public appearance at the 50th anniversary screening of In the Heat of the Night during the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival in L.A.

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