How did Poitier’s childhood in the Bahamas shape his value system? Did his background affect how people viewed him when he became a superstar?
What hardships did Poitier face upon coming to the United States? Why did he have difficulty adjusting?
How did the American Negro Theatre mold Poitier, both as an actor and as a person? How did the ANT illustrate “the ironies of racial integration”?
How was No Way Out part of a “message movie” cycle in the years after World War II? In what ways did it establish Poitier?
Was Poitier’s career affected by the anti-communist hysteria of the early 1950s? Why or why not?
How did Blackboard Jungle capitalize on American anxieties about youth culture in the 1950s? To what extent was Poitier responsible for its success?
Describe Poitier’s experiences making movies in and about Africa, such as Cry, the Beloved Country; Mark of the Hawk; and Something of Value. Did these films present a progressive view of Africa, or did they indulge in stereotypes?
Why did Poitier resent his own participation in Porgy and Bess? Why did he take the role?
Recalling James Baldwin’s story about the end of The Defiant Ones, why did white and black audiences tend to read the movie in different ways? How did these different viewpoints shape a public understanding of Poitier as an emerging movie star?
What were the tensions in Poitier’s romantic life? Why did his marriage to Juanita Poitier fall apart? Why was his relationship with Diahann Carroll so tumultuous?
How would you characterize Poitier’s relationship with Harry Belafonte? What were their similarities and differences?
Why did Lilies of the Field become so popular? Did the political climate affect the decision to award Poitier the Academy Award for Best Actor?
In his 1966 book White Papers for White Americans, Calvin Hernton criticized Hollywood’s “systematic attempt to castrate Sidney Poitier?” What did he mean?
Why did a backlash develop against Poitier by the late 1960s? To what extent was the criticism fair? How much personal responsibility does Poitier bear for this criticism?
How did In the Heat of the Night, To Sir With Love, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner create a Sidney Poitier phenomenon in 1967 and 1968? Why did his popularity crash soon after these three films?
How did Poitier’s career evolve in the 1970s? In what ways did he remain a barrier-breaker in Hollywood?
How has the Poitier icon remained relevant in modern-day Hollywood? Do actors such as Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and Morgan Freeman face similar limitations on their screen roles?
During the 2008 presidential election, a number of political commentators compared Barack Obama to Sidney Poitier. Why? Did elements of the Poitier icon help explain Obama’s appeal?
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