Anderson Award chair Pamela Crawley said in a statement, "By anyone's estimation, Sidney Poitier is one of this country's most talented and powerful actors. His brilliant artistry and film choices literally changed the way this country viewed race and the role of African-Americans in our culture."
"Sidney Poitier is an inspiration and a role model," Mayor Street said. "He lived through the perils of racism, defied stereotypes and became one of the country's most respected and popular actors. His achievements and his leadership over five decades set the standard for the subsequent generations of talented African-Americans who have followed in his footsteps in theater and in the film industry."
The Marian Anderson Award, created in 1998 and named for the great 20th-century contralto who was herself a breaker of racial barriers, "honors artists whose leadership on behalf of a humanitarian cause(s) or issue benefits society." Previous winners have included Harry Belafonte (1998), Gregory Peck (1999), Elizabeth Taylor (2000), Quincy Jones (2001), Danny Glover (2002), Oprah Winfrey (2003) and Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (2005).