Sidney Poitier

"An Artful Event" at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles October 6, 2012

Poitier in 2012, photo by Prphotos

Date of Birth: February 20, 1927

Place of Birth: Miami, Florida, U.S.

Date of Death: January 6, 2022

Place of Death: Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Ethnicity: African-Bahamian

Sir Sidney Poitier was a Bahamian and American actor, film director, activist, and diplomat. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Lilies of the Field (1963). His many roles over five decades also included Blackboard Jungle, The Defiant Ones, Porgy and Bess, A Raisin in the Sun, A Patch of Blue, To Sir, with Love, In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Uptown Saturday Night, Shoot to Kill, and Sneakers. He was the Bahamian ambassador to Japan, from 1997 to 2007. He was the first black person to win a lead actor Oscar.

He was born in Miami, Florida, to African-Bahamian parents, Evelyn (Outten/Outen) and Reginald James Poitier, and was raised on Cat Island, in the Bahamas, later moving to Nassau, and then, at fifteen, to Miami and New York in the U.S. His parents owned a farm on the island, and sold produce in Miami. Sidney was born there during one such visit.

Sidney was married to Canadian actress Joanna Shimkus, until his death. He had four children with his former wife Juanita Hardy; and two children, including actress Sydney Tamiia Poitier, with Joanna.

The surname Poitier is considered a Norman name.

Sidney’s paternal grandfather was March Poitier (the son of David Poitier and Margaret Ambrose). David may have been the son of Sire Poiter, who was born in Caicos Island, Turks and Caicos Islands, to an African father. Margaret may have been the daughter of March Ambrose and Charlotte.

Sidney’s paternal grandmother was Emma Jane “Emily” Evans (the daughter of Charles Evans and Jane).

Sidney’s maternal grandfather was named Timothy Outten/Outen. Timothy was born on Rum Cay, Bahamas.

Sidney’s maternal grandmother was named Virginia Farrington/Farington.

Sidney was sometimes said to have had Haitian ancestors on his father’s side. This does not appear to be accurate.

Sources: Genealogy of Sidney Poitier –

Marriage record of Sidney’s parents –

Death records of Sidney’s parents –

Sidney’s father on the 1930 U.S. Census –

Birth record of Sidney’s mother –


Curious about ethnicity

6 Responses

  1. andrew says:

    >Margaret Ambrose). David was the son of Sire Poiter, who was born in Caicos Island, Turks and Caicos Islands, to an African father. Margaret was the daughter of March Ambrose and Charlotte

  2. andrew says:

    Sidney’s uncle has claimed that the Poitier ancestors on his father’s side had migrated from Haiti. The surname Poitier is a French name.

    • IslandYankee says:

      Although his family believed it, it’s likely not true, at least not on Sidney’s Poitier or Outen/Outten lines. Both names go back to white Bahamian plantation owners in the 1700s. The Poitier plantation, which was on the island Sidney’s family was from (Cat Island), was especially large, so there are nearly 1,000 Bahamians who have the surname today.

      Basically, his family believed a really good story, but it wasn’t based in fact. It’s certainly possible that some of his other lines had Haitian ancestry, but no Bahamian genealogist has ever found a trace of it.

  3. fuzzybear44 says:

    A great actor.I especially love those classics with Bill Cosby

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