Iconic singer, actor, and activist Harry Belafonte passes away at 96

Harry Belafonte

American iconic singer, Harry Belafonte died at age 96  at his home on the Upper West Side on Tuesday, 25th April 2023.

Belafonte who was also an actor, and civil rights activist broke down racial barriers during his lifetime.

His longtime spokesman, Ken Sunshine said Belafonte’s death was caused by congestive heart failure

Belafonte stormed the pop charts and smashed racial barriers in the 1950s with his highly personal brand of folk music, and who went on to become a dynamic force in the civil rights movement.

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Iconic singer, actor, and activist Harry Belafonte passes away at 96

Belafonte almost single-handedly ignited a craze for Caribbean music with hit records like “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.” His album “Calypso,” which included both those songs, reached the top of the Billboard album chart shortly after its release in 1956 and stayed there for 31 weeks. Coming just before the breakthrough of Elvis Presley, it was said to be the first album by a single artist to sell more than a million copies.

Success as a singer led to movie offers, and Mr. Belafonte soon became the first Black actor to achieve major success in Hollywood as a leading man.

Harry Belafonte's First Movie Role
Harry Belafonte’s First Movie Role

Early in his career, he befriended the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and became not just a lifelong friend but also an ardent supporter of Dr. King and the quest for racial equality he personified. He put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Harry Belafonte and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Harry Belafonte and Martin Luther King, Jr.

He provided money to bail Dr. King and other civil rights activists out of jail. He took part in the March on Washington in 1963. His spacious apartment on West End Avenue in Manhattan became Dr. King’s home away from home. And he quietly maintained an insurance policy on Dr. King’s life, with the King family as the beneficiary, and donated his own money to make sure that the family was taken care of after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.

Harry Belafonte at the March on Washington
Harry Belafonte at the March on Washington

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