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...

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