Both one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century and a transformative cultural icon, Sidney Poitier forever changed the way African Americans were represented on-screen. Defying decades of racist stereotyping within mainstream Hollywood cinema, Poitier brought dignity and humanity to his powerful performances in zeitgeist-defining classics like IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, and THE DEFIANT ONES, essential documents of a changing America in the midst of the civil rights movement. The first black performer to win the Academy Award for best actor and one of the first black directors to work in the Hollywood studio system, Poitier paved the way for a new generation of African American stars and filmmakers with his unwavering integrity.
In the following introduction, recorded in 2020, film scholar Mia Mask explores Sidney Poitier’s significance as both one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century and an agent of social and cultural change.
Directed by Martin Ritt • 1957 • United States
Starring Sidney Poitier, John Cassavetes, Ruby Dee
This hard-hitting look at 1950s race relations stars Sidney Poitier and John Cassavetes as a pair of New York City railway workers whose friendship draws the ire of their racist supervisor—setting i...
Directed by Ralph Nelson • 1963 • United States
Starring Sidney Poitier, Lilia Skala, Lisa Mann
Homer Smith (Sidney Poitier), an itinerant handyman, is driving through the Arizona desert when he meets five impoverished nuns. Stopping to fix their leaky farmhouse roof, Homer discovers that not on...