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Anne Bancroft presented Sidney Poitier the Oscar for Best Actor in Lilies of the Field, 1964

In 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first African American actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. His role in Lilies in the Field was dramatic, timely, and most of all it was moving.

When Poitier made his way to the stand to accept the award he did so to the sound of a thunderous applause from the audience. He noted that there had been a “long journey” to the moment at hand and was noticeably emotional, it’s still one of the most breathtaking moments of the Academy Awards. Backstage he added:

I am delighted and pleased to have been selected for this award. I should hope it will mean added opportunities for people of my race in future Hollywood pictures.

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