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Paul Robeson Citation Award

2008 Actors' Equity Association Paul Robeson Award Goes to Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier

"To be free; to walk the good American earth as equal citizens; to live without fear; to enjoy the fruits of our toil; to give our children every opportunity in life; that dream which we have held so long in our hearts is today its destiny that we hold in our hands"
--- Paul Robeson in his autobiography, "Here I Stand"

Equity's 34th annual Paul Robeson Award was presented to Sidney Poitier at the Eastern Region Membership Meeting on October 10, 2008. The Award was presented by Julia Breanetta Simpson, Chair of the Paul Robeson Citation Award Committee. "Mr. Sidney Poitier is an acting icon and a maverick in the truest sense of the word" said Ms Simpson. "By refusing to accept demeaning and stereotypical roles on stage and in film, he opened the door to the possibility of bigger and better roles for African Americans and all performers of color."

L-R: Engle Conrow, Tom Miller, Julia-Breanetta Simpson, Yves Rene, Eugene Osborne Smith

Sidney Poitier's life and work as an actor, film director, author and diplomat, epitomizes the precepts on which the Paul Robeson Award is given: Dedication to the universal brotherhood of mankind; Commitment to the freedom of conscience and of expression; Belief in the artist's responsibility to society; Respect for the dignity of the individual; and Concern for and service to all humans of whatever race or nationality.

Mr. Poitier began his illustrious career at Harlem's American Negro Theatre. In 1959 he starred as Walter Lee Younger in Lorraine Hansberry's play "A Raisin In The Sun", the first play by a black playwright to be presented on Broadway. He is also the first black man to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1963 for "Lilies Of The Field". He is a 1999 Kennedy Center Honoree. And in 2002, Mr. Poitier received an Honorary Oscar "in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being."

Lee Roy Giles, Julia Breanetta Simpson, Freda Scott Giles

Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts Mr. Poitier was unable to be present to accept the Award, but sent the following statement, "Any award that is attached to the name and life of Paul Robeson carries high respect. For my life and work to be attached to such an award, leaves me honored in the extreme. His life has left us all richer in character, richer in values, and richer in courage. My thanks to all concerned with this never-to-be-forgotten moment."


Award pages:

Arizona Theatre Service

On June 1, 1971, the Council of Actors' Equity Association established what is now known as the Paul Robeson Committee, and designated Frederick O'Neal as Chair. The Committee resolved to present annual citations to the individual or organization that, during the preceding year or years, best exemplified and practiced the principles and ideals of this great humanitarian, Paul Robeson. For a complete list of recipients click here.

Paul Robeson as Othello

Recipients of the Paul Robeson Award are:

Year Recipient
1974 Paul Robeson
1975 Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee
1976 Lillian Hellman
1977 Pete Seeger
1978 Sam Jaffe
1979 Harry Belafonte
1980 Alice Childress
1981 Studs Terkel
1982 Ed Asner
1983 John Henry Faulk
1984 Lena Horne
1985 Arthur Mitchell
1986 Vinie Burrows
1987 Joe Papp
1988 Jacques D'Amboise
1989 Bill Ross & Dr. Margaret Burroughs
1990 Maya Angelou
1991 Gordon Parks
1992 Art D'Lugoff
1993 Katherine Dunham
1994 Lloyd Richards
1995 Gil Noble
1996 George C. Wolfe
1997 Athol Fugard
1998 Leonard Etienne de Paul
1999 Loften Mitchell
2000 Rosetta LeNoire
2001 Brock Peters
2002 Gertrude Jeanette
2003 Woodie King, Jr.
2004 Judith Jamison
2005 Carl Harms
2006 Bill Cosby
2007 Mercedes Ellington
2008 Sidney Poitier
2009 Micki Grant
2010 Charles Randolph-Wright
2011 James Earl Jones
2012 William Greaves
2013 Shauneille Perry
2014 Baayork Lee
2015 Arthur French
2016 ASTEP
2017 Jamal Joseph

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