Sidney Poitier Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE (born February 20, 1927) is a Bahamian-American actor. He has been hailed as a breakthrough star whose acclaimed performances, which consciously defied previous racial stereotyping, gave a new dramatic credibility for black actors to mainstream film audiences in the Western world.
He was born in Miami, Florida, to Bahamian parents and grew up in poverty on Cat Island in the Bahamas. His breakout role was that of one of a classroom of incorrigible high school students in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle. Remarkably, nobody seemed to notice Poitier was 27 at the time of filming. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the 1963 film Lilies of the Field and was the first actor of African descent to win this award. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II (by right and recommendation of his Bahamian citizenship) in 1974. In 2000 he received the Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and in 2002 he received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
He acted in the first run of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway in 1959, and in its Hollywood adaptation in 1961.
Married first to Juanita Hardy from April 29, 1950 through 1965, and he is currently married to Canadian-born former actress Joanna Shimkus, and has been since January 23, 1976. He has four children by his first marriage and two children by his second marriage. His fifth daughter is actress Sydney Tamiia Poitier.
In addition to authoring This Life (1980) and The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (2000), he is mentioned extensively in John Guare's play Six Degrees of Separation, when one of the characters (falsely) claims to be his son.
Poitier was appointed a Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) in 1974. As a citizen of the Bahamas, which recognizes the British monarch as head of state and uses the British Honours System, this is a substantive (rather than honorary) knighthood. He is thus entitled to use the title "Sir," though he chooses not to do so. Poitier also has served as non-resident Bahamian ambassador to Japan (since April 1997), and to the United Nations (UN) Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In these diplomatic roles, the Bahamian Ministry of Foreign Affairs refers to him as "His Excellency Sir Sidney Poitier" .