"In my case, the body of work stands for itself.... I think my work has been representative of me as a man." - Sidney Poitier
"To be compared to Jackie Robinson is an enormous compliment, but I don't think it's necessarily deserved." - Sidney Poitier
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
Near the end of the 20th century, the American Film Institute ranked the greatest actors and actresses who worked during the Golden Era of Hollywood and the first half of the 1900s, and Sidney Poitier was ranked 22nd among the men. Given the company he was surrounded by, such a distinction could be considered honor enough, but Poitier also happened to be the only minority on the list, an accomplishment made all the more incredible given the systematic discrimination he faced within the industry and the land where he grew up.
Though he spent much of his childhood in the Bahamas, Poitier was born in Miami and was exposed to the effects of Jim Crow at a young age. With no good educational opportunities, Poitier struggled to even learn how to read as a teen, and after a stint in the Army, it's unclear where his life was headed until he successfully auditioned for a spot in the American Negro Theater, an organization that staged plays during the 1940s and helped groom both Poitier and Harry Belafonte to be actors.