Sidney Poitier was the child of tomato farmers in the Bahamas. He moved to New York as a teenager and worked as a dishwasher until a successful audition landed him a spot with the American Negro Theater. The 1949 film “No Way Out” launched his groundbreaking cinematic career. Poitier was the first black actor to win an Academy Award for a lead role. Throughout his life, Poitier has worked to bridge racial gaps both on and offscreen.

Sidney Poitier’s Early Days

Sidney Poitier was born on February 20, 1927, in Miami, Florida. His parents were natives of Cat Island in the Bahamas and were visiting the United States when their son was born.Poitier spent his childhood on his father’s tomato farm with six older siblings. When the United States put an embargo on tomatoes from the region, Mr. Poitier moved the family to Nassau.

By the age of 13, Poitier worked full-time to help support the family. Mr. Poitier, concerned about the influence of street life on his young son, sent young Sidney to Miami to live with his older brother. Shortly thereafter, the boy made his way to New York.

To survive, Poitier took menial jobs and temporarily slept in a bus terminal toilet. When winter struck, he lied about his age to enlist in the Army, hoping for a ticket away from Manhattan’s cold climate.

After a brief period of service, Poitier returned to Manhattan and took a job as a dishwasher. In the meantime, he discovered an ad calling for actors and auditioned for the American Negro Theatre. Barely able to read, Poitier was tremendously unprepared and humiliated off the stage. But he was determined: Six months later he returned to the same stage and got a role.

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