Innovative entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte dies at 96

NEW YORK (AP) — Harry Belafonte, the civil rights and entertainment giant who began as a groundbreaking actor and singer, turned activist, humanitarian and conscience of the world, has passed away. he was 96 years old.

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

With his radiant handsome face and silky husky voice, Belafonte was one of the first black performers to sell a million records as a singer, gaining wide following in film.Many know him for his signature hit “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” And the call of “Day-O!” But a career as a performer in the 1960s He built a larger legacy when he scaled back and carried out the mandate of his hero, Paul Robson, that artists be “the gatekeepers of truth.”

He’s the epitome of a model and celebrity activist.

File photo of American singer Harry Belafonte taken in Paris during preparations for a TV show with France’s Nana Mouskouri, November 1969. (Photo: AFP/AFP via Getty Images)

Belafonte not only participated in protest marches and benefit concerts, but also organized them and called for support. He worked closely with his friend and contemporary Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., often intervening on his behalf with both politicians and fellow entertainers to support him financially. bottom.

He risked his life and livelihood, set high standards for young black celebrities, reprimanded Jay-Z and Beyoncé for failing to be “socially responsible,” mentored Usher, Common, Danny Glover, and more . In his 2018 film BlacKkKlansman, directed by Spike Lee, he was aptly cast as an elderly politician who educates young activists about the country’s past.

Andrew Young, a friend of Belafonte and a civil rights leader, would point out that Belafonte was the rare individual who became more radical with age. He was willing to fight the liberals of the North, the billionaire Koch brothers, and Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States.

Belafonte replied, “What makes you think that’s not what I’ve been doing?”

Belafonte has been a major artist since the 1950s. He won a Tony Award for his lead role in John Murray Anderson’s “The Almanac” in 1954, and five years later he became the first black performer to win an Emmy Award for the television special “Tonight Harry He’s Belafonte”. became.

In 1954 he co-starred with Dorothy Dandridge in the musical Carmen Jones, directed by Otto Preminger. The 1957 film “Isle of the Sun” was released in 1957. Due to the film’s interracial romance between Belafonte and Joan Fontaine, the movie theater owner was threatened by Ku Klux and his clan in several parts of the South. Banned in the city. Innovative entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte dies at 96

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