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Sidney Poitier, Hollywood's first black movie star, dead at 94.

By: Adam Beam SUTV News

He was an actor who tore down walls at a time when Hollywood needed it the most, and his performances and characters paved the way for a generation of black performers. Sidney Poitier, the first black man to win a Best Actor Oscar has died at the age of 94.

Born in Miami on February 20, 1927, Sidney Poitier was the youngest of seven children. From an impoverished background, Poitier was able to overcome the many obstacles life and society had thrown at him to become a well established actor in the industry.

It was in 1963 when Sidney Poitier would win his first Oscar for his role in the film "Lilies of the Field". Many of his most iconic performances came during this era, a time where the civil rights movement was making its way through the nation. Films such as "In the Heat of the Night" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" were powerful, yet controversial, films that explored a lot of the same racial and discriminatory issues going on in real life.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Poitier described his method for chosing what films he worked on, "(Blacks) were so new in Hollywood. There was almost no frame of reference for us except as stereotypical, one-dimensional characters. I had in mind what was expected of me -- not just what other Blacks expected but what my mother and father expected. And what I expected of myself."

In 2009, Sidney Poitier was rewarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. In 2001, Denzel Washington won the Oscar for Best Actor in "Training Day", the same night that Poitier was rewarded an honorary Oscar. As Washington put it, "I'll always be following in your footsteps. There's nothing I'd rather do, sir."

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