Harry Belafonte, a singer, actor, and civil rights activist, has died at the age of 96, his publicist Ken Sunshine confirmed to CNN.
Sunshine said that Belafonte died Tuesday morning of congestive heart failure.
“King Of Calypso” Dead At 96 From Congestive Heart Failure, Publicist Confirms
Nicknamed the “King of Calypso” following his 1956 hit song “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” Belafonte went on to become a movie star after acting in the film adaption of ‘Carmen Jones.’
Additionally, he was equally well-known for being an activist and a fundamental supporter of the civil rights movement. Furthermore, he boldly jeopardized his career in entertainment for doing so.
Harry Belafonte And His Friendship With MLK
Belafonte ended up becoming a close friend of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.. The two often met at the singer’s New York apartment to strategize about civil rights issues.
Growing up as the son of impoverished Jamaican parents in Harlem helped shape his political consciousness and contempt for injustice.
As widely recognized as he was for being an entertainer, Belafonte once said, “activism (comes) first.”
“I’ve often responded to queries that ask, ‘When as an artist did you decide to become an activist?'” he told Dallas Morning News in 2011. “My response to the question is that I was an activist long before I became an artist. They both service each other, but the activism is first.”
Today, we honor trailblazing artist Harry Belafonte.
Beloved for his powerful performances in "Carmen Jones" or "Kansas City," Harry broke through barriers as a Black singer & actor and was a major force in the Civil Rights Movement as one of MLK's close confidants🕊️ RIP Legend pic.twitter.com/BzUZiK5OhZ
— New York Film Academy (@NYFA) April 25, 2023
Belafonte’s Later Years, Awards, And Surviving Family
In his older years, Belafonte continued his career in entertainment, despite walking with a cane. Additionally, he remained committed to racial and justice-related causes.
Belafonte was awarded the NAACP’s highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, in 2013, telling the audience that “radical thinking and voices” are crucial “to perfect our desire for greater democracy,” CNN reports.
“America has never been moved to perfect our desire for greater democracy without radical thinking and radical voices being at the helm of any such quest,” he said.
In 1989, Belafonte received a Kennedy Center Honor, a National Medal of Arts in 1994, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.
He is survived by his wife Pamela, his children Adrienne Belafonte Biesemeyer, Shari Belafonte, Gina Belafonte, David Belafonte, two stepchildren, and eight grandchildren, according to CNN.