In the 1950s and '60s, Sidney Poitier won international fame as a film actor and transformed the image of African Americans in the cinema. Although others had enjoyed success in character roles or as musical performers, Poitier won fame as a dramatic actor and romantic leading man, embodying an entire people's struggle for social equality.
Sidney Poitier rose to a position of international eminence from a childhood of poverty in the Bahamas, where he spent the first years of his life on a tiny island, without electricity or running water. He arrived in New York City as a teenager, nearly illiterate, but determined to make his mark on the world.
In 1964, he won an Oscar as Best Actor for his role in the Lilies of the Field; he was the first African American to be so honored for a performance in a leading role. His roles in To Sir With Love, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night made him the top-grossing star of the era. He has followed his successes as an actor with impressive accomplishments as a film director, author and diplomat.
His rise from poverty and obscurity to the heights of success and acclaim is a great success story in itself, but his application of his renown to the cause of human rights and social justice has made him one of the most universally admired men of our times.