Emotional Sidney Poitier Nearly Cries When He Recalls Kind Jewish Man Who Taught Him To Read As A Boy

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By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

Sidney Poitier passed away earlier in January and the world lost one of its greatest actors. Poitier, 94, was the first Black movie star in Hollywood and also the first Black person to win the Oscar for the best actor. 

Sidney Poitier’s Journey Was One Of Kindness

Sidney came from the Bahamas to the Big Apple with big dreams about making it as an actor but was held back due to the fact that he could not read. It is not possible for someone to be an actor if he can not read the script. Sidney Poitier stated that there was a kind waiter who helped him learn how to read and took time out of his schedule to do so. The actor got carried away with emotion as he shared the incidents with Lesley Stahl on CBS Sunday Morning.

Poitier used to wash dishes at a restaurant after he arrived in New York. He used to carry newspapers with him and when a Jewish person asked him about the news he was dumbfounded. He shared that he could not read.

“I sit there, and I’m reading one of the papers. And there was a Jewish waiter sitting at the table, an elderly man, and he saw me there,” recalled Poitier in the episode. “He got up, and he walked over, and he stood by the table that’s next to the kitchen, and he said, ‘Hi. What’s new in the papers?’ And I said to him, ‘I can’t tell you what’s new in the papers because I don’t read very well. I didn’t have very much of an education.’”

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“He asked, ‘Would you like me to read with you.’ I said to him, ‘Yes if you’d like to,'” he said. Poitier shared how he sat “every night” with him to teach him after his work shift was over. Poitier held back tears as he recollected the kindness of this Jewish person who had almost nothing to gain from teaching Poitier, and he still did it.

“Every night after that he would come over and sit with me, and he would teach me what a comma is and why it exists, what periods are, what colons are, what dashes are,” said Poitier. “He would teach me that there are syllables and how to differentiate them in a single word and consequently, learn how to pronounce them. Every night,” said the actor getting emotional.

Sidney Poitier Had Only One Regret In His Life

The actor added how such a thing changed his life as an actor but most importantly as a human being. He still had one regret.

 “One of my great regrets in life is that I went on to be a very successful actor, and one day I tried to find him, but it was too late, and I regret that I never had the opportunity to really thank him,” said Poitier on an episode of the podcast “What It Takes.”

Poitier took this opportunity to thank the Jewish waiter in the interviews with Oprah on “60 Minutes” and mentioned his name too during the award ceremonies.

Sidney Poitier went on to become the biggest star in Hollywood and the first Black man to do so. Until that time, Blacks were only starred in smaller roles that were cut out when it was released in conservative areas of the US.

Denzel Washington, another Black actor, stated:  “You couldn’t cut Sidney Poitier out of a Sidney Poitier picture. He was the reason a movie got made. the first solo, above the title, African-American movie star. He was unique.” 


Sidney Poitier won an Oscar for his marvelous performance in ‘Lilies of The Field’ where he played the role of an itinerant laborer who helps a group of White nuns builds a chapel. 

Sidney Poitier

The Actor Took Every Opportunity To Thank The People Who Helped Him In His Life

Sidney Poitier had always reflected on his past life and mentioned the story wherever he could.

He was awarded an honorary Oscar for his role in the film, in 2002, where he said:  “I arrived in Hollywood at the age of 22 in a time different than today’s, a time in which the odds against my standing here tonight 53 years later would not have fallen in my favor. Back then, no route had been established for where I was hoping to go, no pathway left in evidence for me to trace, no custom for me to follow.”

“Yet, here I am this evening at the end of a journey that in 1949 would have been considered almost impossible and in fact might never have been set in motion was there not an untold number of courageous, unselfish choices made by a handful of visionary American film-makers, directors, writers, and producers.”

He also named some of the people who were quite influential and helped him in his journey.

Credits: CBS Sunday Morning

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