Sidney Poitier, acknowledged as a trailblazing actor and a respected humanitarian, has died at 94.

He was the first black star to win a best actor Oscar. He gained the award for his role in Lilies of the Field in 1963.

Though he was born in Miami, Poitier grew up on a tomato farm in the Bahamas before moving to New York when he was 16.

He signed up for a short stint in the army and did several odd jobs while taking acting lessons in the 1950s and 60s, en route to becoming a star of the stage and screen.

Poitier broke racial barriers in Hollywood. His appearance in The Defiant Ones in 1958 earned him his first Oscar nomination, which the BBC described as a historic achievement in itself for a black man in a lead category at the time.

The actor was a regular on the big screen at a time of racial segregation in the US, appearing in a Patch of Blue in 1965, and then Heat of the Night the year after, followed by Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, playing a black man with a white fiancée.

Actor and Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington, said: ‘It was a privilege to call Sidney Poitier my friend. He was a gentle man and opened doors for all of us that had been closed for years.’

Former US President Barack Obama said Poitier ‘epitomised dignity and grace’ and had ‘singular talent’.

He added that the actor had revealed ‘the power of movies to bring us closer together’ and ‘opened doors for a generation of actors’.

[Image: Kingkongphoto &amp,]