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On This Day In Black History...

2/20/2014, midnight

Sir Sidney Poitier, American-born Bahamian actor, film director, author, and diplomat was born on February 20, 1927.

In 1963, Poitier became the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in “Lilies of the Field.”

The significance of this achievement was later bolstered in 1967 when he starred in three successful films: “To Sir, with Love;” “In the Heat of the Night;” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” making him the top box-office star of that year. In all three films, issues revolve around the race of the characters Poitier portrays.

In 1999, the American Film Institute named Poitier among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking 22nd on the list of 25.

Poitier has directed a number of popular movies, such as “A Piece of the Action,” “Uptown Saturday Night,” “Let’s Do It Again” (each with friend Bill Cosby) and “Stir Crazy” (starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder).

In 2002, 38 years after receiving his second Best Actor Oscar, Poitier was chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive an Honorary Award, designated: “To Sidney Poitier in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being.”

Since 1997, Poitier has been the Bahamian ambassador to Japan.

In August 2009, Sidney Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama.