Hollywood trailblazer Sidney Poitier dies at 94

Actor was the first black man to win Best Actor in the history of the Academy Awards

Sidney Poitier, who became the first black man to win a Best Actor Oscar, has died at the age of 94.

The news was announced by Bahamian Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell, Eyewitness News Bahamas reported.

The Bahamian-American actor was best known for films such as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night and Lilies of the Field.

Actor Sidney Poitier holding his Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for 'Lilies Of The Field', directed by Ralph Nelson, at the 36th Academy Awards ceremony, April 13, 1964. Getty Images

His first leading role in a film was in 1955's Blackboard Jungle, and his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor was for his leading role The Defiant Ones (1958), which was also the first time a black actor was nominated for a leading role.

He won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Lilies of the Field in 1963.

When American actor Denzel Washington became the second black man to win Best Actor for his role in the 2001 film Training Day, Poitier was honoured with an Academy Award for his achievement in cinema the same night.

During his acceptance speech, Washington said of Poitier: “Forty years I've been chasing Sidney. They finally give it to me and what do they do? They give [an award] to him the same night.

"I’ll always be chasing you, Sidney. I’ll always be following in your footsteps. There’s nothing I would rather do, sir."

Poitier's career helped pave the way for black actors in the US, especially during a time when parts of America had laws enforcing racial segregation. He was the frequent recipient of acting honours and achievement awards throughout his life.

He retired from acting in 2001.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honour, by Presdint Barack Obama in 2009.

Tributes for the star have poured in since the news broke.

Updated: January 7th 2022, 7:44 PM