Rest easy to legendary singer, activist, and actor Harry Belafonte. The news of his death was announced today (April 25). Belafonte lived a full life, passing at 96 years old at his home in Manhattan, New York. The entertainment and Civil Rights hero has joined his industry peers in the after life. We celebrate Harry Belafonte’s legacy of art, activism and achievement with a gallery featuring him and his prolific friends inside.
Belafonte was arguably the most successful Caribbean-American pop star of his time. The award-winning musician, actor and human rights activist popularized Jamaican mento folk songs which was marketed as Trinbagonian Calypso musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. He went on to join the Civil Rights Movement around the same time, becoming one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s closest confidants. Throughout the years, he helped organize demonstrations, raised money and contributed his personal funds to keep the movement afloat. One of Belafonte’s greatest contributions to the movement was organizing a contingent of celebrities to attend the 1963 March on Washington.
The star was born in Harlem to Caribbean parents. His mother emphasized education, but Belafonte found school to be difficult due to dyslexia. Despite dropping out of high school and deciding to enlist in the navy, the beloved entertainer found great success and a long life of happiness and meaningful connections.
Belafonte was nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards and became the first African American to ever win the award. He was also nominated for 11 Grammy Awards and won two. Belafonte won a Tony Award, received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the President’s Merit Award.
His relationships with some of the industry’s leading figures like Sidney Poitier — who cast Harry in Buck and the Preacher for his 1972 directorial debut — afforded him many opportunities to become a prominent figure in Black history.
In the gallery, you will see photos of Harry Belafonte with some of his esteemed friends through art and activism like Poitier, King, Cicely Tyson and James Baldwin. Social media users joke that Harry’s currently greeting his late friends in the after life with a bright smile and plenty of jokes to make them laugh.