Love for the First Black Oscar Winner Sidney Poitier on His Birthday

The actor turns 85 today.

By Jorge Rivas Feb 20, 2012

This morning I started out the day by writing about the dismal number of Oscar academy members of color. Only about 2% of an estimated 5,000 academy voters are black–that’s about 100 black academy voters.

And it just so happens that one of the first black academy members turns 85 today!

Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to be nominated for an Oscar in 1958 for his role in "The Defiant Ones." He went on to win the best actor Oscar award five years later in 1963 for his role in "Lilies of the Field."

(While I have not confirmed it’s likely he’s the first black academy member.)

In 2002, 38 years after receiving the Best Actor Award, Poitier was chosen by the academy to receive an Honorary Award, designated "To Sidney Poitier in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being."

And in August 12, 2009 it all came full circle when the first black Oscar winner was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America’s highest civilian honor, by the country’s first black president.

Happy Birthday Sidney Poitier!

President Barack Obama hugs Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient actor Sidney Poitier during the award ceremony in the East Room of the White House, on Aug. 12, 2009. 
(Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

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