Sidney Poitier at event

Sidney Poitier

Honoring a legend, creating a legacy

What Sidney Poitier Means to Me

The Sidney Poitier New American Film School is delighted to share a series of short videos created by students and celebrating the legacy of this great screen artist and humanitarian. Drawing inspiration from Poitier's 2000 memoir "The Measure of a Man" (HarperCollins Publishers), these first year students share "What Sidney Poitier Means to Me."

Watch the series

Sidney Poitier behind camera

Actor, film director, civil rights activist, author, ambassador, father—Sir Sidney Poitier was a groundbreaking international film icon whose life, both onscreen and off, stood as an example of strength, passion, depth and integrity.

Over the course of his long and varied career, Poitier starred in more than 40 films, directed nine, and wrote four. His many memorable roles as an actor include “The Defiant Ones,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “A Patch of Blue,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “To Sir, With Love,” and “Sneakers.” For his outstanding performance in “Lilies of the Field,” a 1963 film set and shot in Arizona, Poitier became the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Among many other accolades, Poitier was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honors Award, an NAACP Image Award, a Grammy Award for best spoken word album, and an honorary Academy Award “for his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen and for representing the industry with dignity, style, and intelligence.”

The youngest of seven children, Sidney Poitier was born in Miami, Florida, on Feb. 20, 1927, and grew up on Cat Island, in the Bahamas. When he was 15, he was sent to live with his brother’s family in Miami; at 16 he moved to New York, where he held a string of jobs as a dishwasher before lying about his age in order to enlist in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the Army, he worked as a dishwasher again, until a successful audition with the American Negro Theatre launched him on his way as an actor, first on stage and then on screen.

collage of various Sidney Poitier photos and movie posters

The Sidney Poitier New American Film School Naming Event

Jan. 25, 2021, Arizona State University announced The New American Film School in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts would be named after groundbreaking industry icon Sidney Poitier in a special virtual event.

Quote by Sidney Poitier " No one knows all that there is to know. The task is to learn as much as you can about as much as you can."
Photos in order of appearance: Sidney Poitier, the Graham Stark Photographic Library (Getty Images); On set of “Stir Crazy,” Columbia Pictures, Inc.; Sidney Poitier and his daughters by Joyce Ostin; Collage photos: Sidney Poitier and Burt Lancaster March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963 by Roosevelt Carter, Library of Congress; Sidney 2012_ltr by redsky enterprise, licensed under CC BY 2.0;  A Raisin in the Sun poster, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-15811; “The Defiant Ones" by Movie-Fan, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Sidney Poitier, courtesy of the Poitier family; Receiving the Oscar by Bettmann (Getty Images); On set of “Stir Crazy,” Columbia Pictures, Inc.; Sidney Poitier, the Graham Stark Photographic Library (Getty Images); Lilies of the Field poster; 1963 March on Washington, public domain;  Charlie Chaplin Award gala by tamaradulva, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Sidney Poitier in “A Patch of Blue” by jamesjoel, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0; Sidney Poitier, Cinemactor; Sidney Poitier awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom; Poitier hand and footprints by nccmrm97, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0; Sidney Poitier by John Mathew Smith &, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Sidney Poitier headshot courtesy of the Poitier family.