Sidney Poitier: Black American Actor

Sidney Poitier was the first black man to win an academy
award for best actor. Throughout his film career he has taken on roles that
highlight the situation of the black man in a white world. Poitier’s interest in
the plight of the black people goes far beyond acting. He is a writer and
director as well as a humanitarian and a diplomat.

His first great acting success was in the film Cry The
Beloved Country, about Apartheid in South Africa. He later went on to play in
other films about Black Americans. The film “In the Heat of the Night” was a
classic movie about a black detective from the North. He was sent to solve a
murder in a Southern town at a time when blacks were still addressed as
“boy” in the South, and segregated. His performance made a lot of people
sympathize with the plight of black people in the South. Until then, many people
had considered that they were treated equally, or at least fairly. Another
controversial role he played was in “Guess Who is Coming To Dinner”. That
was a film about interracial marriage. Sidney Poitier was going to marry a white
girl, and he went to dinner at her parent’s house for the first time, to meet
them. Her parents were absolutely horrified at the thought of their daughter
marrying a black man. It was the first time that an interracial marriage had
been the subject of a Hollywood film, and the film had a happy ending.

All of these things may seem very ordinary today, but in those days black
people were still shunned and considered inferior. Sidney Poitier played a big
part in changing those views. He was not afraid to play in roles that would
cause controversy, or even put him in danger from extreme racists. Nearly fifty
years after his first success with Cry My Beloved Country, Sidney Poitier went
to an apartheid free South Africa, to star in a film as Nelson Mandela. The
world is slowly changing and people are beginning to realize that color,
nationality and religion have nothing to do with whether a person is good or

To learn more about Sidney Poitier: his life, his ideals
and his films, visit
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