Sidney Poitier, the trailblazing actor and a respected humanitarian and diplomat, the first black man to win a best actor Oscar, has died at 94. Barack Obama said he “epitomised dignity and grace” and had “singular talent” and he opened doors for a generation of actors to follow like Denzel Washington. He combated prejudice and injustice but also fell foul of black activists.
In his memoir he recalled that “There was more than a little dissatisfaction rising up against me in certain corners of the black community. The issue boiled down to why I wasn’t more angry and confrontational. According to a certain taste that was coming into ascendancy at the time, I was an ‘Uncle Tom’ for playing the ‘noble Negro’ who fulfils white liberal fantasies.” He gave up acting and turned to directing with some success, but became increasingly depressed with the film industry and with the entrenched attitudes of the various sides in the race debate. It was only towards the end of his career that he was recognised for his huge contribution to changing the way in which American society regards black people.
He was born February 20 1927 9pm Miami, Florida, prematurely when his Bahamian parents visited Miami and wasn’t expected to survive, but he did and his birth gave him American citizenship. He left school barely able to read and write, lived on the streets in New York and washed dishes being helped by a waiter to improve his reading and eventually landed a job with the American Nego Theatre, understudying for Harry Belafonte.
He had an expansive, enthusiastic and creative Sun Jupiter in Pisces in his performing/entertaining 5th house with his Jupiter in a confident trine to an influential Pluto in the 10th. He also had another three planets in Pisces – Mercury, Venus and Uranus – in his 6th giving him a strong work ethic, a harmonious voice and an independent streak. And dominating his chart from another angle he had Mars in Taurus in the 8th square Neptune opposition his Sun. His anger would be deeply buried contributing to his calm demeanour even in the face of injustice. It’s a strong chart which enabled him to carry the burden of the exceptional expectations placed on his shoulders.
His get-it-together creative 5th Harmonic was strong; as was his ‘breakthrough’ 13H; actor’s 15H; and his victim/healer 12H.
His Pluto was conjunct the USA Sun – an important though not an easy influence.