Not only is Sidney Poitier famous for being the first black actor to win an Oscar for his performance in Lillies of the Field in 1964, he is also a cultural symbol for dignity and civil rights. He was a gentlemanly hero with a penchant for bespoke suits. At a time when the civil rights movement had hit boiling point, Poitier’s presence on the silver screen was of a calm, elegant and refined symbol of a black man against the cartoonish stereotype which had been represented previously and broke racial barriers, winning over black and white audiences.
Actress Katharine Houghton who co-starred alongside Poitier once said that ‘as a black man, he was going to be judged. He knew this. He had to be better than a white man. And that was his great gift to America.’
‘I decided in my life that I would do nothing that did not reflect positively on my father’s life.’