Barrier-breaking black actor, Sidney Poitier, dies at 94

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Legendary Hollywood actor and first black man to win an acting Oscar, Sir Sidney Poitier, has died at the age of 94, a Bahamian government official has said.

In 1964, he made history by clinching the Academy of Motion Pictures statuette for his work in Lilies of the Field, and went on to appear in dozens of films and television shows.

The actor had three box office hits with In the Heat of the Night, To Sir, with Love and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Sir Sidney in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. Pic: Moviestore/Shutterstock

In the film In the Heat of the Night he delivered the iconic line: “They call me Mister Tibbs”. He also directed a number of projects, including Stir Crazy, Hanky Panky and Ghost Dad.

Sir Sidney was widely seen as the first major black Hollywood star, with many of his film appearances highlighting issues faced by black people at the time.

As well as being a decorated actor, he was also an international diplomat, serving as the Bahamian ambassador to Japan in between 1997 and 2007, and to UNESCO between 2002 and 2007.

He was knighted in 1974 and then in 2009 he was given the highest civilian honour in the US, the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, by President Barack Obama.

Sir Sidney also served on the board for the Walt Disney Company in the 1990s and early 2000s. Born in Miami to Bahamian tomato farmers in 1927, he spent his early years living in the Bahamas, giving him dual US-Bahamian citizenship.

He got his start on stage in the late 1940s, and just a few years later he was a regular on the big screen. Sir Sidney’s cause of death has not yet been announced. (news.sky.com)