Harry Belafonte, a musician, actor, producer, and activist who popularized calypso music in the United States and paved the way for black entertainers, passed away on Tuesday from congestive heart failure at his Manhattan home. He was 96.
The lithe, dapper Belafonte was a celebrated Broadway actor as well as a versatile recording and concert star of the 1950s. He was one of the first Black leading men in Hollywood.
Belafonte, a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was a key figure in the 1960s civil rights movement and afterwards engaged in charity endeavors on behalf of poor African countries. He was a vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa.
Belafonte received numerous awards over his career, including two Grammys, a Tony, an Emmy, and the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. At the Governors Awards presentation in 2014, he was also given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Motion Picture Academy.
Harold George Belafonte Jr. was born in New York but went to live with his grandmother in Jamaica when he was five years old. He later returned to New York to finish high school. However, Jamaica’s own calypso and mento would provide.