Harry Belafonte, activist and entertainer, dies at 96

Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte, born Harold George Belafonte Jr. on March 1, 1927, in Harlem, New York, is a highly acclaimed musician, actor, and social activist. Belafonte is of Jamaican descent and spent his early years in poverty in Jamaica before returning to New York with his mother at the age of 13.

Belafonte served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and, upon returning to civilian life, pursued a career in acting. He landed his first Broadway role in the musical “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac” in 1953. That same year, he released his first album, “Calypso,” which became a huge commercial success and introduced calypso music to a global audience.

Belafonte continued to release hit albums throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including “Belafonte Sings of the Caribbean” (1957), “An Evening with Belafonte” (1959), and “Belafonte at Carnegie Hall” (1959), which became one of the best-selling live albums of all time.

In addition to his music career, Belafonte was also a prominent activist in the Civil Rights Movement. He used his fame and platform to advocate for racial equality and social justice, working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and participating in the 1963 March on Washington. He also helped to organize the “We Are the World” charity single in 1985 to raise money for famine relief in Africa.

Belafonte has received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, and the National Medal of Arts. He continues to be an active voice in social justice causes and a respected figure in the entertainment industry.

Belafonte’s activism extended beyond the Civil Rights Movement. He also spoke out against the Vietnam War and apartheid in South Africa, and he continues to advocate for issues such as climate change and immigrant rights.

In addition to his music and activism, Belafonte has had a successful acting career. He starred in several films in the 1950s and 1960s, including “Carmen Jones” (1954), “Island in the Sun” (1957), and “Odds Against Tomorrow” (1959). He also appeared on television shows such as “The Muppet Show” and “Miami Vice.”

Belafonte has been married three times and has four children. He has also authored several books, including his autobiography “My Song” (2011).

Despite his many accomplishments, Belafonte has faced criticism throughout his career for his outspoken views and activism. However, he remains a highly respected figure in both the entertainment industry and the world of social justice activism.

Harry Belafonte has had a distinguished career in music, activism, and acting, and has received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to these fields. Some of his notable achievements include:

  • Selling millions of albums worldwide and introducing calypso music to a global audience with his 1956 album “Calypso,” which featured the hit song “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).”
  • Winning a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, as well as two Grammy Awards for Best Folk Recording in 1960 and 1961.
  • Being awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1994, which is the highest honor given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government.
  • Receiving a Kennedy Center Honor in 1989, which recognizes lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.
  • Serving as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 1987 and being awarded the organization’s Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award in 2013 for his commitment to helping children around the world.
  • Using his fame and platform to advocate for social justice issues, including the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and more recently, climate change and immigrant rights.
  • Being inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2017, which honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the cause of civil and human rights.
  • Appearing in numerous films and television shows, including “Carmen Jones,” “Island in the Sun,” and “The Muppet Show,” and receiving critical acclaim for his performances.

Overall, Harry Belafonte’s achievements span multiple disciplines and have had a significant impact on the world of music, activism, and entertainment.

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