On this day in 1927 Academy Award winning actor Sidney Poitier was born. Prior to winning an Oscar, he was the first male black actor nominated for one in 1958.
Mentored along with Harry Belafonte and others by Paul Robeson, Poitier was red baited during the McCarthy period. He resisted naming names and studio demands that he sign loyalty oaths.
In 1963, the year of the March on Washington he was the first African American to land the Academy’s best actor award. Poitier radically altered prior stereotypical roles for black characters in film and was the first to achieve rounded portrayals. Along with Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee he was active in the civil rights movement and participated in the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign. A cross was burned in his yard after lending support to James Meredith.
He currently serves as ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan.