Sidney Poitier ‘Carried a Unique Burden of Representation,’ Professor Says

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Sidney Poitier, who was the first Black man to win an Academy Award for best actor, has died at age 94.

Mark Anthony Neal, the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African & African American Studies, says the actor was a “trusted racial interlocutor” who provided a “template” for other Black men.

“There’s a scene in the 1963 film ‘Lilies of the Field’ where Sidney Poitier, who earned his first Oscar for his performance and the first for a Black American, painstakingly teaches a group of German nuns the song ‘Amen,’” Neal says.

“The affable Poitier is here the trusted racial interlocutor – a role he played regularly throughout his career. In that moment much of the world got to understand Poitier’s meaning for Black America, and particularly Black men, as a template for how they could ‘be in the world.’”

Neal, who offers courses…

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