Harry Belafonte Jamaican Mento Folk Singer and Civil Rights Champion dies at 96

Harry Belafonte singer, actor and civil rights activist was born March 1, 1927, in Harlem, New York, the son of Jamaican parents.

Harry Belafonte (born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr.; March 1, 1927 – April 25, 2023) was an American singer, actor and activist. Born to Jamaican parents in Harlem, Belafonte had never forget his Jamaican roots. He was best known for his recordings of “The Banana Boat Song”, with its signature “Day-O” lyric, “Jump in the Line”, and “Jamaica Farewell”. He recorded and performed in many genres, including blues, folk, gospel, show tunes, and American standards. He also starred in several films, including Carmen Jones (1954), Island in the Sun (1957), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).

Belafonte is one of the few performers to have received an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony (EGOT), although he won the Oscar in a non-competitive category. He earned his career breakthrough with the album Calypso (1956), which was the first million-selling LP by a single artist.

Harry Belafonte

He was also a Civil Right Activist. A close friend of Martin Luther King, he was a visible supporter of the civil rights movement, who bankrolled several anti-segregation organisations and bailed Dr King and other activists out of jail. He also campaigned against poverty, apartheid and Aids in Africa; and became an ambassador for Unicef, the United Nations children’s fund.

Harry Belafonte was in the forefront of the civil rights movement, working closely with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King’s daughter Bernice King wrote on Twitter, When I was a child, #HarryBelafonte showed up for my family in very compassionate ways. In fact, he paid for the babysitter for me and my siblings. Here he is mourning with my mother at the funeral service for my father at Morehouse College. I won’t forget…Rest well, sir.

Harry Belfonte mourning at Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral

In 1985, he organised the charity single We Are the World, an all-star musical collaboration that raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. Belafonte travelled the world as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, in 1987 and later started an AIDS foundation. In 2014 he received an Academy Award for his humanitarian work. During the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, Belafonte bankrolled the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, flying to Mississippi that August with Sidney Poitier and $60,000 in cash and entertaining crowds in Greenwood.

In 2018, he was bestowed with the Order of Merit (OM) by the Jamaican government for his outstanding contribution to culture.

Belafonte died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his New York home, his wife Pamela by his side, said Paula M. Witt, of public relations firm Sunshine Sachs Morgan & Lylis.

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