Harry Belafonte im Publikumsgespräch zu 'Sing Your Song' von Susanne Rostock während der Viennale 2011 im Wiener Gartenbaukino

His publicist confirmed that the beloved icon died of congestive heart failure at his home in New York.

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Renowned singer, actor, producer, and legendary civil rights trailblazer, Harry Belafonte died at 96.
His publicist confirmed that the beloved icon died of congestive heart failure at his home in New York.

In addition to his children, Adrienne Belafonte Biesemeyer, Shari Belafonte, Gina Belafonte, David Belafonte, and two stepchildren, Sarah Frank, and Lindsey Frank, Belafonte leaves behind eight grandchildren: Rachel Blue Biesemeyer, Brian Biesemeyer, Maria Belafonte McCray, Sarafina Belafonte, Amadeus Belafonte, Mateo Frank, Olive Scanga, and Zoe Frank.

Known globally for both his artistic ingenuity and humanitarian ideals, Belafonte became an early, vocal supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, a confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a financial backer of countless historic political and social causes and events, including the anti-Apartheid Movement, equal rights for women, juvenile justice, climate change, and the decolonization of Africa.

He was one of the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington.

He led a delegation of Hollywood luminaries, including his best friend, Sidney Poitier, as well as Paul Newman, Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlon Brando, Rita Moreno, Tony Curtis, James Baldwin, Burt Lancaster, Joanne Woodward, Diahann Carrol, Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul and Mary and Joan Baez, Ruby Dee, and Ossie Davis and Tony Curtis.

The following is from Belafonte’s bio on the HistoryMakers:

Born to immigrant parents in Harlem on March 1, 1927, Harry Belafonte spent much of his youth in his mother’s home country of Jamaica.

Though difficult, life in Jamaica was full of rich cultural experiences that influenced Belafonte’s art.

At the beginning of World War II, Belafonte returned to Harlem with his mother and brother. He had trouble integrating into the new environment and later dropped out of high school to join the U.S. Navy.

After Belafonte was honorably discharged, he returned to New York, where he worked odd jobs until two free tickets to the American Negro Theatre (A.N.T.) changed his life.

Belafonte auditioned for the A.N.T. and earned his first leading role in Juno and the Paycock.

In 1953, he made his film debut opposite Dorothy Dandridge in Bright Road. He won a Tony in 1954 for his performance in Almanac.

At the same time, Belafonte developed his singing talents, parlaying a series of nightclub performances into a record contract.

His third album, Calypso, topped the charts for 31 consecutive weeks and was the first record to sell more than 1 million copies.

Belafonte also secured a television outlet with his hour-long special, Tonight with Belafonte, which won him an Emmy.

He became the first African American T.V. producer and his company, HarBel, went on to produce one Emmy nominee after another.

In the early 1950s, Belafonte developed a strong relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Belafonte worked tirelessly to mobilize artists supporting the civil rights movement.

In 1985, he again rallied the global artistic community to raise awareness of the famines, wars, and droughts plaguing many African nations.

U.S.A. for Africa raised more than $60 million for this cause with “We Are the World” and Hands Across America.

A longtime anti-apartheid activist, Belafonte hosted former South African President Nelson Mandela on his triumphant visit to the United States.

Belafonte maintained his commitment to service as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

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