Sidney Poitier Wins the Oscar

Today in Black History



1964 –

April 13 in Black History: The Legacy of Sidney Poitier and the Civil Rights Act of 1968

April 13 is a day of significant milestones in Black history, as it celebrates the accomplishments of iconic actor Sidney Poitier and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. In this article, we delve into Poitier’s remarkable career and the lasting impact of the 1968 legislation on the fight for civil rights and equality.

Sidney Poitier: A Trailblazing Actor (1927)

Born on February 20, 1927, in Miami, Florida, Sidney Poitier became a groundbreaking actor, director, and civil rights activist. On April 13, 1964, Poitier received the Best Actor Academy Award for his role in “Lilies of the Field,” making him the first Black actor to win an Oscar in a leading role. This monumental achievement paved the way for future generations of Black actors and served as a powerful symbol of progress in the fight for racial equality.

Actor Sidney Poitier was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor

After years of Blacks only being offered subservient or demeaning roles in major motion pictures, Poitier was known for insisting on dignified roles and had become America’s top Black star and its first Black male to win an Oscar (Hattie McDaniel was the first Black to win an Oscar, as Best Supporting actress for her role as a maid in Gone With The Wind). He was previously nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar) in 1959 for his roe in The Defiant Ones alongside Tony Curtis.

Poitier was awarded the Oscar statuette by a gleeful Academy Award winner Anne Bancroft. Bancroft, in handing him the statuette kissed him on the cheek, causing an uproar amongst many conservative audiences. Poitier was awarded and Honorary Oscar in 2002 “For his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen and for representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence.”

Throughout his career, Poitier portrayed complex, multidimensional characters that defied stereotypes and challenged societal norms. His roles in films such as “A Raisin in the Sun,” “In the Heat of the Night,” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” solidified his status as an acting legend and contributed to the broader conversation on race and civil rights in America.



  1. Editors. (2021, February 25). Sidney Poitier Biography.
  2. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2021, February 18). Sidney Poitier