Harry Belafonte, legendary performer and activist, dead at 96


Harry Belafonte, the American singer, actor and social activist known as the King of Calypso, has died. He was 96.

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.

Belafonte, whose family was Jamaican, spent part of his childhood on the island and popularized Caribbean music with international audiences in the 1950s through hits such as the Banana Boat Song.

WATCH / Harry Belafonte speaks to CBC in the 1960s on mixing art and politics:

Harry Belafonte on why he gets involved in politics

2 years ago

Duration 4:58

The singer reflects on how his personal life experience has driven his political involvement.

Belafonte had a significant career as an actor, challenging taboos in 1957’s Island in the Sun, in which he played a Black man contemplating an affair with Joan Fontaine.

He won a Tony Award in 1954 for his starring role in John Murray Anderson’s Almanac and was the first Black man to win an Emmy in 1959 for his solo TV special Tonight with Belafonte.

Offstage, he was an active participant in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, often working closely with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

He also played roles in the anti-apartheid fight in South Africa and helped raise money for food aid and AIDS charities in Africa.

More to come

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