Harry Belafonte dead at 96: Barrier-breaking singer and actor best known for ‘The Banana Boat Song’ and ‘Jump In the Line’ turned civil-rights activist passes away at home in Manhattan
- American singer Harry Belafonte died Tuesday at his Upper West Side home at the age of 96
- The cause of death was congestive heart failure
American singer Harry Belafonte has died of congestive heart failure at the age of 96, his spokesman has confirmed.
The civil rights icon was pronounced deceased at his home in the Upper West Side of Manhattan on Tuesday.
Belafonte made a splash in Hollywood in the 1950s, becoming a star with his hit songs Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) and Jump in the Line.
That success ultimately led to leading roles in films like Carmen Jones and Island in the Sun.
But as he became more and more of a household name, Belafonte started to speak out against the racism he experienced in Hollywood as he described himself as a singer of music with ‘roots in the black culture of American Negroes, Africa and the West Indies.’
American folk singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, pictured in 1956, has died of congestive heart failure
Belafonte made a splash in Hollywood in the 1950s, becoming a star with his hit songs Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) and Jump in the Line
Belafonte was born in Harlem to West Indian immigrants in March 1927.
His album, Calypso, was said to be the first by a single artist to sell more than 1 million copies after it reached the tip of Billboard album charts in 1956 and stayed there for more than 30 weeks straight.
And by 1959, he was the most highly paid black performer in American history, with contracts for appearances in Las Vegas, at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and at the Palace at New York.
Belafonte continued to perform well into the 21st century, appearing in films like BlacKkKlansman in 2018 and portraying South African bishop Desmond Tutu in Breathe in 2005.
But starting in the late 1950s, Belafonte took on a larger role as a major activist in the civil rights movement.
He had befriended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. early in his career and put up much of the seed money to start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Belafonte was then one of the main fundraisers for the organization, as well as for King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
He also provided money to bail out Dr. King and other civil rights leaders, and would often host the reverend at his spacious New York City apartment.
Belafonte even stood with King at the historic March on Washington in 1963, and made sure his family was well taken care of after King was assassinated in 1968.
Belafonte befriended civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr early in his career. They are pictured together at New York’s Kennedy International Airport in August 1964
Belafonte, fifth from left, even took part in the historic March on Washington in 1963
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