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The Margin: Sidney Poitier, legendary Hollywood star, dead at 94

Sidney Poitier, the legendary Hollywood luminary and diplomat, who is credited with helping to break the color barrier in the movie industry in the 1950s and 1960s, is dead at 94.

His death has been confirmed by Bahamas Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell.

Poitier, who was born in 1927 in Miami, Fla., but grew up in the Bahamas, was known as the first Black man to win an Academy Award for best actor for his role in 1964’s Lilies of the Field, where he played Homer Smith, an army vet who helps an order of German nuns build a chapel in Arizona.

He made his big-screen debut in the 1950 film No Way Out. 

The Sun reported that Poitier was granted U.S. citizenship after being unexpectedly born in Miami while his Bahamian parents were visiting the U.S. He moved to the U.S. when he was 15 and got his first acting role in 1955’s social-commentary film Blackboard Jungle, where he played Gregory W. Miller.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that Poitier helped dictate the conversation about race and equality in America through his career. “The nation’s divisiveness on race issues, laid bare by the Civil Rights movement, was approaching a fever-pitch just as his career took flight in the late 1950s,” WSJ wrote.

He served as the Bahamas’ ambassador to Japan. President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

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