From the Archive: Sidney Poitier
January 7, 2022
The trailblazing actor and director Sidney Poitier has died at the age of 94. An icon of Black representation, he was the first Black male to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, for 1964's Lilies of the Field, as well as a transformational figure in portrayals of Black people onscreen. He was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009.
Born in Miami to Bahamian tomato farmer parents, Poitier found acclaim in such films as The Defiant Ones, In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and both the original stage production and film adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. The Defiant Ones garnered him the first best actor nomination for any Black male actor, in 1958. The following year, he spoke to Studs Terkel on our sister station WFMT about that film in an extensive interview, which you can listen to in the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.
Poitier returned more than twenty years later to Terkel's radio program in 1980, to discuss his memoir, This Life. That interview, in which he describes various episodes from his momentous life, is also available to stream.