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The name Poitier actually came from a planter of English heritage who immigrated to Cat Island from Jamaica in the early 1800s.
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A waiter sat with him every night for several weeks helping him learn to read the newspaper.
Determined to refine his acting skills and rid himself of his noticeable Bahamian accent, he spent the next six months dedicating himself to achieving theatrical success.
Poitier was aware of this pattern himself, but was conflicted on the matter.
He wanted more varied roles; but he also felt obliged to set an example with his characters, by challenging old stereotypes as he was the only major actor of African descent being cast in leading roles in the American film industry, at that time.
He acted in the first production of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway in 1959, and later starred in the film version released in 1961.
He also gave memorable performances in The Bedford Incident (1965), and A Patch of Blue (1965) co-starring Elizabeth Hartman and Shelley Winters.
In 1951, he traveled to South Africa with the African American actor Canada Lee to star in the film version of Cry, the Beloved Country. Poitier was the first male actor of Bahamian descent to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award (for The Defiant Ones, 1958).
He was also the first actor of Bahamian descent to win the Academy Award for Best Actor (for Lilies of the Field in 1963).