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Harry Belafonte en Ethiopie

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We are sad to report that actor, singer and activist Harry Belafonte has died at the age of 96, according to the New York Times.

The actor, who was a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, died Tuesday morning of congestive heart failure. His death was confirmed by his publicist Ken Sunshine.

Harry Belafonte was a pioneer in so many ways. He’s arguably one of the most successful Caribbean-American signers of all time. His first album Calypso, which premiered in 1956, sold over a million records. With hit songs like “The Banana Boat Song” and “Jump In The Line,” Harry Belafonte’s rise to fame was inevitable. He would go on to perform on Broadway and star in numerous mega films such as Bright Road and Island In The Sun.

But music wasn’t Belafonte’s only passion. His support for the Civil Rights Movement ultimately defined who he was as a person. Belafonte was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s confidants, often helping the family financially since King only made an honest living as a preacher.

Dr. King with Famous Supporters

Source: Bettmann / Getty

Belafonte, along with Sidney Poitier, also helped bankroll the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the “Mississippi Freedom Summer” of 1964. He also served as chairman of the International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children in Dakar, Senegal. Belafonte successfully leveraged his entertainment popularity to help drive social change all over the world.

Friends, family and fans took to social media to celebrate Harry Belafonte’s legacy and remember the leader, entertainer and civil rights pioneer.

“Harry Belafonte is one of the greatest social activists and freedom fighters ever to have lived,” said Cathy Hughes, Founder and Chairperson of Urban One. “Humanity has just suffered a significant wound to its consciousness.”

“May Harry Belafonte, the lionhearted civil rights hero, rest in peace,” tweeted journalist Christian Amanpour. “He inspired generations around the whole world in the struggle for non-violent resistance justice and change. We need his example now more than ever.”

Educator Nina Turner tweeted a perfect Belafonte quote that eloquently sums up his legacy.

“I was an activist who became an artist, I was not an artist who became an activist.” – Harry Belafonte

Belafonte is survived by his wife, Pamela, who was by his side when he passed, and his children Adrienne Belafonte Biesemeyer, Shari Belafonte, Gina Belafonte, David Belafonte and two stepchildren Sarah Frank and Lindsey Frank. Belafonte also leaves behind eight grandchildren.

From Harry Belafonte’s publicist:

Known globally for both for his artistic ingenuity and humanitarian ideals, Belafonte became an early, vocal supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, a confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and financial backer of countless historic political and social causes and events, including the anti-Apartheid Movement, equal rights for women, juvenile justice, climate change and the decolonization of Africa. He was one of the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington and led a delegation of Hollywood luminaries including his best friend Sidney Poitier, as well as Paul Newman, Sammy Davis Jr., Marlon Brando, Rita Moreno, Tony Curtis, James Baldwin, Burt Lancaster, Joanne Woodward, Diahann Carrol, Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul and Mary and Joan Baez, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis and Tony Curtis.


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Actor, Activist And Legendary Singer Harry Belafonte Dies At 96  was originally published on