On This Day, April 13, 1964 – Sidney Poitier Breaks Oscar Color Barrier


1964 – Sidney Poitier became the first black to win an Oscar for best actor. It was for his role in the movie Lilies of the Field.

He won for his role in Lilies of the Field (he had also been nominated for best actor for The Defiant Ones five years earlier), and though it was a tremendous breakthrough in terms of diversity, it’s also worth noting that when Ann Bancroft gave him a kiss on the cheek when presenting him with the Oscar, some people were offended.

That was the world in 1964, the world in which Poitier and everyone else of color lived. Whatever accomplishments they enjoyed did not erase the reality of racism that surrounded them.

And though it would be nice to say that Poitier’s win brought down the barriers, at least to some extent, it would be 38 years before another African-American actor won a best-actor Oscar: Denzel Washington, for his turn as a bad cop in 2001’s Training Day.

1782 – Washington, NC, was incorporated as the first town to be named for George Washington.

1796 – The first known elephant to arrive in the United States from Bengal, India.

1829 – The English Parliament granted freedom of religion to Catholics.

1860 – The first mail was delivered via Pony Express when a westbound rider arrived in Sacramento, CA from St. Joseph, MO.

1861 – After 34 hours of bombardment, the Union-held Fort Sumter surrenders to Confederates.

1870 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in New York City.

1943U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Jefferson Memorial.

1949 – Philip S. Hench and associates announced that cortizone was an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

1954 – Hank Aaron debuted with the Milwaukee Braves.

1959 – A Vatican edict prohibited Roman Catholics from voting for Communists.

1960 – The first navigation satellite was launched into Earth’s orbit.

1961 – The U.N. General Assembly condemned South Africa due to apartheid.

1962 – In the U.S., major steel companies rescinded announced price increases. The John F. Kennedy administration had been applying pressure against the price increases.

1963 – Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds got his first hit in the major leagues.

th-1Nicknamed “Charlie Hustle” by All-Star Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford, Rose made his major league debut in 1963 and went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year award. In the ensuing years, the switch-hitter would establish himself as one of the best players in baseball. Rose surpassed 200 hits for the first of a record 10 times in 1965, notched batting titles in 1968 and ’69, and won Gold Gloves for his outfield defense in ’69 and ’70.

On September 11, 1985, he recorded career hit No. 4,192 to break the 57-year-old record held by baseball great Ty Cobb. Rose ended his playing career after the 1986 season with 4,256 total hits, and also held the all-time records with 3,562 games played and 14,053 at-bats.

1970 – An oxygen tank exploded on Apollo 13, preventing a planned moon landing.

1972 – The first strike in the history of major league baseball ended. Players had walked off the field 13 days earlier.

1984 – U.S. President Reagan sent emergency military aid to El Salvador without congressional approval

1997 – Tiger Woods became the youngest person to win the Masters Tournament at the age of 21. He also set a record when he finished at 18 under par.

1998 – NationsBank and BankAmerica announced a $62.5 billion merger, creating the country’s first coast-to-coast bank.

1998 – Dolly, the world’s first cloned sheep, gave natural birth to a healthy baby lamb.

Sources: On-this-day.com; USAToday.com; Biography.com