Hollywood’s first black superstar in the 1950’s, Sidney Poitier, overcame decades of prejudice and was awarded Best Oscar actor in 1963. He was gradually drawn into the ongoing struggle for civil rights as he felt himself losing touch with a black audience that wanted him to be more radical.
He was Hollywood’s first black superstar. In the 1950s when Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and James Dean were the rising stars their number was swelled by a handsome Black man for whom the phrase “Black is Beautiful” might have been created. By 1963 Sidney Poitier was well enough known, admired and liked to overcome decades of prejudice and be awarded the Best Oscar actor. He then went on to make the two films for which he is still remembered – In The Heat of the Night and To Sir With Love. Inevitably he was drawn into the ongoing struggle for civil rights and as the movement became more aggressive after the death of Martin Luther King, Poitier felt himself losing touch with a black audience that wanted him to be more radical. His career in front of the camera ended with dramatic suddenness.