Revered and iconic civil rights activist, and legendary singer Harry Belafonte passed away today at age 96.
Belafonte, who was born in Harlem to two Jamaican immigrants, broke racial barriers and ushered traditional Caribbean music such as Calypso to American audiences, catapulting Belafonte into an international star.
But Belafonte’s tremendous talent and chart-topping hits such as “Island in the Sun,” “Day-O” (The Banana Boat song), and “Jump the line,” as monumentally important as they were to history, Belafonte’s music career rivaled his enduring and steadfast commitment to the Civil Rights Movement.
While it is true Belafonte was not the first Black entertainer to break racial barriers during segregation — Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday are a few examples — Belafonte was always visible amid the backdrop of a violent struggle for racial equality in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
It was during the fight for Civil Rights Movement that Belafonte famously befriended Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was considered a close friend and confidant of the slain civil rights icon during a period when the United States was still in the shadows of segregation.
Even after King’s death, Belafonte never wavered in his support for civil rights, and was an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump.
Belafonte died of congestive heart failure at his home in Upper Manhattan, New York. He is survived by his wife and four children.
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