Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon

By Aram Goudsouzian | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
GREAT MIGRATIONS
(1943–1945)

Sidney retched himself to sleep that night. The ship’s hole stank of sickly sweet motor oil, and his stomach churned with nausea. Finally morning arrived and he climbed above deck into sunshine and fresh air. As the ship coasted into Miami’s harbor, he marveled at handsome buildings towering over steamships and sailboats. He recognized Cyril at the dock. Passing through customs and riding to his new home, he grew excited. Miami bore hope, the promise of education and opportunity and thrills.1

Had Sidney actually foreseen the next few months, he might have retreated into the ship’s hole and retched his way back to Nassau. In Miami he felt isolated and unable to connect with Cyril’s six children. Cyril’s wife, Alberta, resented his presence. Sidney had hoped to return to school, but she demanded that he earn his keep. He began walking the city, ostensibly to find work but really to acquaint himself with Miami. Everything seemed new: American accents, taller buildings and longer streets, different sounds and tastes and smells. The white multitudes particularly struck Sidney. For the first time in his life, he was part of a racial minority.

Alberta chafed at Sidney’s meandering, half-hearted job search. She was a nurse’s aide, and Cyril was an airport porter with two extra parttime jobs. They barely made ends meet. After one week she insisted that Cyril use a contact at a department store to help find Sidney a job. Soon after, he was hired to deliver packages for the store’s pharmacy. Traveling by bicycle, Sidney learned more of the city. During a delivery in Miami Beach, he learned a more harrowing lesson.2

Sidney pedaled through the wealthy white neighborhood, impressed by the mansions and their ornate grounds. He hopped off his bicycle at the appointed house and sauntered up the walk, package in hand. An older white woman answered the door. “What do you want?” she snapped. Confused, he showed her the parcel. “Get around to the back door!” she

-25-

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Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Poverty and Progress 5
  • Chapter 1 - Patches (1927–1943) 7
  • Chapter 2 - Great Migrations (1943–1945) 25
  • Chapter 3 - Stages (1945–1949) 43
  • Part II - Race Man 61
  • Chapter 4 - Message Movies (1949–1952) 63
  • Chapter 5 - Black Lists (1951–1954) 84
  • Chapter 6 - Threats (1955–1957) 103
  • Chapter 7 - Noble Savages (1956–1957) 123
  • Part III - Black Man's Burden 143
  • Chapter 8 - Decisions (1957–1959) 145
  • Chapter 9 - Burdens (1959–1961) 167
  • Chapter 10 - Blues (1960–1962) 189
  • Chapter 11 - Long Journeys (1963–1964) 208
  • Part IV - Alone in the Penthouse 229
  • Chapter 12 - Crossroads (1965–1966) 231
  • Chapter 13 - Useful Negroes (1966–1967) 253
  • Chapter 14 - Last Hurrahs (1967–1968) 277
  • Part V - Through Playing God 313
  • Chapter 15 - Exiles (1967–1971) 315
  • Chapter 16 - Survivors (1972–1978) 337
  • Chapter 17 - Ghosts (1978–2002) 358
  • Appendix : Performances by Sidney Poitier 381
  • Notes 397
  • Bibliography 447
  • Index 467
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