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Sidney Poitier Quotes Showcasing His Hollywood Legacy

From The Defiant Ones to In the Heat of the Night, Sidney Poitier is a legendary Oscar-winning African-American actor whose career in entertainment spans over five decades.

Below are insightful, inspirational Sidney Poitier quotes for you to enjoy. 

What’s your favorite Sidney Poitier movie? 

Sidney Poitier began his acting career as a part of the North American Negro Theater in the 1940s.

While achieving mild Broadway success, Poitier was offered a role in 1950’s No Way Out, his first leading theatrical role. 

His leading role in 1963’s Lillies in the Field brought Sidney Poitier an Oscar win.

This made him the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Poitier has received many other awards celebrating his long-running career, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. 

Want to learn more about Sidney Poitier’s amazing life and career?

Check them out below. 

Don’t forget to also read these Morgan Freeman quotes that inspire, move, and motivate.

Check out our most popular quote article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily inspiration. 

Explore our complete collection of motivational quotes here.

Sidney Poitier quotes about acting

1. “In my case, the body of work stands for itself…I think my work has been representative of me as a man.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Strive everyday for your work to stand up against the challenges it will face out in the world. At the end of the day, we can each hope that we do good work that represents who we are, and maybe, even makes a difference in the world.

2. “I always wanted to be someone better the next day than I was the day before.” – Sidney Poitier 

Everyday Application: Instead of comparing yourself to others, take stock in who you were yesterday, last week, and last year. Can you recognize your growth and development? Practice self-awareness and know your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you more in the long run than comparing yourself to someone else!

3. “I always had the ability to say no. That’s how I called my own shots.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Calling your own shots, or setting boundaries, is essential to living a healthy life. Saying ‘no’ is beneficial to your mental and physical well-being. Learn more about how to say ‘no’ in this article!

4. “A good deed here, a good deed there, a good thought here, a good comment there, all added up to my career in one way or another.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Pay attention to the way you behave, the things you think, and the words you say. They have a bigger impact than you realize. When those things are positive, and in alignment with the kind of life we want to lead, everything will flow much easier.

5. “I did not go into the film business to be symbolized as someone else’s vision of me.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: No matter what your career or field you are in, someone else’s vision of you doesn’t matter. You should know who you are, and do your best to live according to the vision you have on yourself.

6. “I had chosen to use my work as a reflection of my values.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: This might also be thought of as finding your passion and purpose in life. When you get to use your work to reflect who you are and what matters to you, it increases your overall satisfaction with life. Not sure what your purpose is? Check out this article for an interesting perspective!

7. “I wanted to explore the values that are at work, underpinning my life.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Figure out what you value. Who are you at your core? How do you do that? Think about the times you were the happiest and what makes you proud. Your values are the guidelines you use to live your life. What kind of things are going on when you feel like life is working out the way you want it to.

8. “If you apply reason and logic to this career of mine, you’re not going to get very far. You simply won’t.” – Sidney Poitier

9. “When I set out to become an actor, I had set myself a standard.” – Sidney Poitier

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10. “I had to satisfy the action fans, the romantic fans, the intellectual fans. It was a terrific burden.” – Sidney Poitier

11. “I was not the kind of a principal player that was so in demand that eight or 10 or 12 scripts came per month.” – Sidney Poitier

12. “If the screen does not make room for me in the structure of their screenplay, I’ll step out. I’ll step back. I’d step back. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it.” – Sidney Poitier

13. “Acting isn’t a game of “pretend.” It’s an exercise in being real.” – Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier quotes about race

14. “I was the only Black person on the set. It was unusual for me to be in a circumstance in which every move I made was tantamount to a representation of 18 million people.” – Sidney Poitier

15. “I never had an occasion to question color, therefore, I only saw myself as what I was… a human being.” – Sidney Poitier

16. “The impact of the black audience is expressing itself. They look to films to be more expressive of their needs, their lives. Hollywood has gotten that message – finally.” – Sidney Poitier

17. “I didn’t run into racism until we moved to Nassau when I was ten and a half, but it was vastly different from the kind of horrendous oppression that black people in Miami were under when I moved there at 15. I found Florida an antihuman place.” – Sidney Poitier

18. “There is no racial or ethnic domination of hopelessness. It’s everywhere.” – Sidney Poitier

19. “I knew what it was to be uncomfortable in a movie theater watching unfolding on the screen images of myself – not me, but black people – that were uncomfortable.” – Sidney Poitier 

20. “I couldn’t adjust to the racism in Florida. It was so blatant… I had never been so described as Florida described me.” – Sidney Poitier

21. “I was fortunate enough to have been raised to a certain point before I got into the race thing. I had other views of what a human is, so I was never able to see racism as the big question. Racism was horrendous, but there were other aspects to life.” – Sidney Poitier

Also check out these insightful Ella Baker quotes on civil rights, activism, and more.

Powerful Sidney Poitier quotes 

22. “History passes the final judgment.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: They say hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. History affords you the luxury of looking back and seeing how the decisions you made played out. On the grander scale of history, it depicts how the world and major populations were impacted. Ideally, it is something we should learn from and then do better.

23. “I feel, internally, that I am an ordinary person who has had an extraordinary life.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Every ordinary person person has the opportunity to have an extraordinary life. Some, might have to overcome far more challenges than others, but that doesn’t mean it can not happen. Figure out what you want your life to look like, learn the skills you need to make it happen, and take risks!

24. “So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Do things happen for a reason or are they random? Sometimes, it can feel like randomness, especially when terrible things happen and we ask, “why us.” The reason may not be readily known. It might take years to show itself, but the events of our life often propel us in a certain direction.

25. “I’ll always be chasing you… Glory.” – Sidney Poitier

26. “I am the me I choose to be.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: We are all who we choose to be. This choice starts with our mindset. Do you choose to be happy and grateful? Or, do you choose to focus on the negative and complain? Are you pursuing the things that excite you and feel meaningful? You can control your thoughts, actions, decisions, and behaviors. Choose wisely, as you are choosing who you want to be in those moments.

27. “In America, it is difficult to be your own man.” – Sidney Poitier

28. “I have always been a learner because I knew nothing.” – Sidney Poitier

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29. “Far as I can tell, I still have most of my hair, my gut is not hanging over my belt, and I still have all of my teeth.” – Sidney Poitier

30. “Generally, I tend to despise human behavior rather than human creatures.” – Sidney Poitier

31. “I know how easy it is for one to stay well within moral, ethical, and legal bounds through the skillful use of words – and to thereby spin, sidestep, circumvent, or bend a truth completely out of shape. To that extent, we are all liars on numerous occasions.” – Sidney Poitier

32. “I wouldn’t change a single thing, because one change alters every moment that follows it.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Everything that has happened in your life has taught you something. Each event has encouraged you to avoid or pursue a path. The pain and struggle are all a part of the life you live and the person you become. You can not change anything from the past, but you can use your past to make choices.

33. “I cannot be understood in three minutes.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: We are complex beings with thoughts, feelings, pasts, and dreams. It is impossible to be fully understood in such a short period of time. In order to understand someone else, we have to be able to listen without preparing our responses. Listening to understand is an important part of the active listening process.

34. “I’m not a library.” – Sidney Poitier

35. “I learned to hear silence. That’s the kind of life I lived: simple. I learned to see things in people around me, in my mom, dad, brothers and sisters.” – Sidney Poitier
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36. “If I’m remembered for having done a few good things, and if my presence here has sparked some good energies, that’s plenty.” – Sidney Poitier

37. “I want my great-granddaughter to have a fairly good understanding of the world in which I lived for 81 years and also the world before I came into it – all the way back a hundred thousand years, to the beginning of our species.” – Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier quotes about upbringing

38. “As a man, I’ve been representative of the values I hold dear. And the values I hold dear are carryovers from the lives of my parents.” – Sidney Poitier

39. “I come from a great family. I’ve seen family life and I know how wonderful, how nurturing, and how wonderful it can be.” – Sidney Poitier

40. “My father was a poor man, very poor in a British colonial possession where class and race were very important.” – Sidney Poitier

41. “I am not a hugely religious person, but I believe that there is a oneness with everything. And because there is this oneness, it is possible that my mother is the principal reason for my life.” – Sidney Poitier

42. “I was a gift to my mother. She was a remarkable person. God or nature, or whatever those forces are, smiled on her, then passed me the best of her.” – Sidney Poitier

43. “But my dad also was a remarkable man, a good person, a principled individual, a man of integrity.” – Sidney Poitier

44. “My mother was the most amazing person. She taught me to be kind to other women. She believed in family. She was with my father from the first day they met. All that I am, she taught me.” – Sidney Poitier

45. “My father was a tomato farmer. There is the phrase that says he or she worked their fingers to the bone, well, that’s my dad. And he was a very good man.” – Sidney Poitier

46. “I was born two months early, and everyone had given up on me. But my mother insisted on my life.” – Sidney Poitier

47. “My father was the quintessential husband and dad.” – Sidney Poitier

48. “My father was very big on marriage.” – Sidney Poitier

49. “I lived in a country where I couldn’t live where I wanted to live. I lived in a country where I couldn’t go where I wanted to eat. I lived in a country where I couldn’t get a job, except for those put aside for people of my colour or caste.” – Sidney Poitier

50. “My father was a certain kind of man – I saw how he treated my mother and his family and how he treated strangers. And I vowed I would never make a film that would not reflect properly on my father’s name.” – Sidney Poitier

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More Sidney Poitier quotes and sayings

51. “A person doesn’t have to change who he is to become better.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Becoming better is not a matter of changing who you are. It is a matter of honing your strengths and being aware of your weaknesses. Becoming better happens through self-awareness and discovering who you truly are. If you actively do your best everyday, then you will be on your way to being better.

52. “You don’t have to become something you’re not to be better than you were.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Many people think that in order to be better than they were they need to become something other than who they are. They think of this as being fake. However, being better than you were does mean you need to be anyone else or something that is not you. It means you need to be your most authentic self, work with your strengths, and be aware of your weaknesses.

53. “The willingness to receive help and appreciate its value when it arrives, sometimes unannounced, is a subject that returns us to the question of why and how our lives turn out as they do.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Be open to receiving, asking for, and accepting help. There is no shame in learning from a mentor, being given a leg up, or getting support. We all need a little help from time to time. Don’t be afraid to offer help when you can, either. Helping our fellow humans reach their true potential is a gift.

54. “The great disease of mankind is ignorance.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Life is a journey of gathering knowledge and learning new perspectives. There is always going to be something we are ignorant about. It is our job to not stay that way. Mistakes, failures, and education are all great ways to learn. So, is simply listening to others and trying to understand people who have different beliefs than you do.

55. “Living consciously involves being genuine; it involves listening and responding to others honestly and openly; it involves being in the moment.” – Sidney Poitier

56. “Forgiveness works two ways, in most instances. People have to forgive themselves too. The powerful have to forgive themselves for their behavior. That should be a sacred process.” – Sidney Poitier

57. “Accept that environment compromises values far more than values do their number on environment.” – Sidney Poitier

58. “I’ve learned that I must find positive outlets for anger or it will destroy me.” – Sidney Poitier

Everyday Application: Anger is a poison that will kill you slowly from the inside. It doesn’t do anything to the person or situation you are angry about. It simply releases hormones and emotions that can have negative impacts on your physical and mental health. Find positive outlets for coping with your anger and focus on forgiveness.

59. “We’re all somewhat courageous, and we’re all considerably cowardly. We’re all imperfect, and life is simply a perpetual, unending struggle against those imperfections.” – Sidney Poitier

60. “We are what we are, and half of what we are is what we are not.” – Sidney Poitier

What does family mean to you? 

As the youngest child of seven, Sidney Poitier grew up with a large, loving family.

His mother and father’s positive influence made an infinitely important impact on his character and work ethic.

It may be one of the main reasons why he maintained so focused and diligent throughout his acting career. 

Everyone’s family is different.

One person’s immediate family may be their grandparents, while another may view their close friend group as their family.

No matter what your family looks like, they have made a large impact on the person that we have become.

Take time, whether it’s daily or weekly, to reach out to your family and remain in touch.

Those important connections are ones that benefit us for a lifetime. 

Which of these Sidney Poitier quotes and sayings is your favorite?

Let us know below!

Nia Simone McLeod
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