Sidney Poitier is an American actor and director, and the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was born on February 20, 1927 to Evelyn and Reginald James Poitier who were farmers from Bahama. At the time of Poitier’s birth, his parents were in the U.S. to sell the produce from their farm, and Poitier was born two months prematurely. He was a very weak baby and wasn’t expected to survive but his parents stayed behind in the U.S. to nurse him back to health before taking him back to the Bahamas with them. He grew up in the Bahamas but received a U.S. citizenship as he was born there. He lived on Cat Island until the age of 10, and then lived in Nassau until the age of 15. Then he moved to Miami to live with his brother for 2 years, and at the age of 17, he moved to New York City.
In New York, Poitier worked a string of menial jobs, improved his English with the help of a waiter who taught him to read and then joined the United States Army. He auditioned at the American Negro Theatre and landed a role in a production there. However, his first venture into acting was not very successful, especially as he lacked singing talent. He then worked to improve his acting skills and to get rid of his Bahamian accent. Over the next 6 months, he received better roles and established himself as an actor. His first leading role was in the Broadway production “Lysistrata” and his performance garnered positive reviews from critics. He landed a role in the 1950 film “No Way Out” in which he played the role of a doctor, which led to more prominent roles such as the 1955 film “Blackboard Jungle”.
Poitier became the first male African American actor to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award for his role in the 1958 film “The Defiant Ones”. In 1963, he made history by becoming the first African American actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1963 film “Lilies of the Field”. Despite this immense honor, he was concerned with being a token African American actor cast in typical roles,