Sidney Poitier's Incredible Life and Career in Photos

The esteemed actor, born in 1927, broke all sorts of barriers in his long, award-winning career

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Sidney Poitier's Early Years

Sidney Poitier And Glenn Ford In 'Blackboard Jungle'

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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Sidney Poitier and Wife Juanita Hardy

Sidney Poitier and his wife, Juanita Hardy, as they relax at home together, New York, New York
Gordon Parks/The Life Picture Collection/Getty

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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Sidney Poitier in 'The Defiant Ones'

The Defiant Ones Sidney Poitier as Noah Cullen and Tony Curtis as John
Silver Screen Collection/Getty

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

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Sidney Poitier in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Sidney Poitier In 'A Raisin in the Sun'
Gordon Parks/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty

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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Sidney Poitier and Diahann Caroll

Sidney Poitier with Diahann Carroll
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

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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Sidney Poitier Wins an Oscar

Sidney Poitier With Oscar
Archive Photos/Getty

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

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Sidney Poitier in 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'

Sidney POitier, Spencer Tracy And Katharine Hepburn In 'Guess Who's Coming To Dinner'
Columbia Pictures/Getty

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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Sidney Poitier in Uptown Saturday Night

FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty

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

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Sidney Poitier and wife Joanna Shimkus

Joanna Shimkus and Sidney Poitier during Neighborhood of Watts Benefit Dinner at Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

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

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Sidney Poitier's Daughters

Sidney Poitier and His Three Daughters, Sydney Tamiia, Anika, and (either Gina, Pamela or Beverly)
The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty

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

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Sidney Poitier Wins an Honorary Oscar

Sidney Poitier during The 74th Annual Academy Awards
Sidney Poitier. SGranitz/WireImage

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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Sidney Poitier Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Sidney Poitier receives the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty

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

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Sidney Poitier in 1999

Sidney Poitier & Family
Sam Levi/WireImage

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

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Sidney Poitier in 2014

Angelina Jolie (L) and Sidney Poitier walk onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014
Kevin Winter/Getty

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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Sidney Poitier's Final Years

Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier. Stefanie Keenan/Getty

At 90, 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.

Clint Watson, press secretary for the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, confirmed that Poitier died on Jan. 6, 2022. He was 94 years old. Weeks before his death, Variety reported that a play about the actor's life was coming to Broadway; called Sidney, the show was backed by the star's family and based on his autobiography, The Measure of a Man.

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