Harry Belafonte
Overview
 
Harold George "Harry" Belafonte, Jr. (born March 1, 1927) is an American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. He was dubbed the "King of Calypso
Calypso music
Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago from African and European roots. The roots of the genre lay in the arrival of enslaved Africans, who, not being allowed to speak with each other, communicated through song...

" for popularizing the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing "The Banana Boat Song", with its signature lyric "Day-O." Throughout his career he has been an advocate for civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 and humanitarian causes and was a vocal critic of the policies of the George W.
Encyclopedia
Harold George "Harry" Belafonte, Jr. (born March 1, 1927) is an American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. He was dubbed the "King of Calypso
Calypso music
Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago from African and European roots. The roots of the genre lay in the arrival of enslaved Africans, who, not being allowed to speak with each other, communicated through song...

" for popularizing the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing "The Banana Boat Song", with its signature lyric "Day-O." Throughout his career he has been an advocate for civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 and humanitarian causes and was a vocal critic of the policies of the George W. Bush Administration.

Early life

Born Harold George Belafonte, Jr., at Lying-in Hospital, Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, Belafonte was the son of Melvine (née
Married and maiden names
A married name is the family name adopted by a person upon marriage. When a person assumes the family name of her spouse, the new name replaces the maiden name....

 Love) – a housekeeper (of Jamaican descent) – and Harold George Belafonte, Sr., a Martiniquan who worked as chef
Chef
A chef is a person who cooks professionally for other people. Although over time the term has come to describe any person who cooks for a living, traditionally it refers to a highly skilled professional who is proficient in all aspects of food preparation.-Etymology:The word "chef" is borrowed ...

 in the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. From 1932 to 1940, he lived with his grandmother in her native country of Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

. When he returned to New York City, he attended George Washington High School after which he joined the Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 and served during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. In the 1940s, he was working as a janitor's assistant in NYC when a tenant gave him 2 tickets to the theater as a gratuity. He fell in love with the art form and also met Sidney Poitier. The financially struggling pair regularly purchased a single seat to local plays, trading places in between acts, after informing the other about the progression of the play. At the end of the 1940s, he took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop
Dramatic Workshop
Dramatic Workshop was the name of a drama and acting school associated with the New School for Social Research in New York City. It was launched in 1940 by German expatriate stage director Erwin Piscator. Among the faculty were Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, among the students Marlon Brando, Tony...

 of The New School
The New School
The New School is a university in New York City, located mostly in Greenwich Village. From its founding in 1919 by progressive New York academics, and for most of its history, the university was known as the New School for Social Research. Between 1997 and 2005 it was known as New School University...

 in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator
Erwin Piscator
Erwin Friedrich Maximilian Piscator was a German theatre director and producer and, with Bertolt Brecht, the foremost exponent of epic theatre, a form that emphasizes the socio-political content of drama, rather than its emotional manipulation of the audience or on the production's formal...

 alongside Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando, Jr. was an American movie star and political activist. "Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema" according to the St...

, Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis
Tony Curtis was an American film actor whose career spanned six decades, but had his greatest popularity during the 1950s and early 1960s. He acted in over 100 films in roles covering a wide range of genres, from light comedy to serious drama...

, Walter Matthau
Walter Matthau
Walter Matthau was an American actor best known for his role as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple and his frequent collaborations with Odd Couple star Jack Lemmon, as well as his role as Coach Buttermaker in the 1976 comedy The Bad News Bears...

, Bea Arthur and Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier
Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE is a Bahamian American actor, film director, author, and diplomat.In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field...

, while performing with the American Negro Theatre. He subsequently received a Tony Award
Tony Award
The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as a Tony Award, recognizes achievement in live Broadway theatre. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League at an annual ceremony in New York City. The awards are given for Broadway...

 for his participation in the Broadway revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac
John Murray Anderson's Almanac
John Murray Anderson's Almanac is a musical revue, featuring the music of the songwriting team of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, as well as other composers...

.

Music career

Belafonte started his career in music as a club singer in New York to pay for his acting classes. The first time he appeared in front of an audience, he was backed by the Charlie Parker band, which included Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charles Parker, Jr. , famously called Bird or Yardbird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer....

 himself, Max Roach
Max Roach
Maxwell Lemuel "Max" Roach was an American jazz percussionist, drummer, and composer.A pioneer of bebop, Roach went on to work in many other styles of music, and is generally considered alongside the most important drummers in history...

 and Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Dewey Davis III was an American jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Miles Davis was, with his musical groups, at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music, including bebop, cool jazz,...

, among others. At first he was a pop singer, launching his recording career on the Roost label in 1949, but later he developed a keen interest in folk music
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

, learning material through the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

' American folk songs archives. With guitarist and friend Millard Thomas, Belafonte soon made his debut at the legendary jazz club The Village Vanguard. In 1952 he received a contract with RCA Victor.

Calypso

His first widely-release
Release (music)
In the music industry, a release is usually a term referring to the creative output from an artist available for sale or distribution; a broad term covering the many different formats music can be released in, and different forms of pieces .The word can also refer to the event at which an album or...

d single
Single (music)
In music, a single or record single is a type of release, typically a recording of fewer tracks than an LP or a CD. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of different formats. In most cases, the single is a song that is released separately from an album, but it can still appear...

, which went on to become his "signature" song with audience participation in virtually all his live performances, was "Matilda
Matilda (song)
"Matilda" is a calypso lamenting a woman who took a man for all he was worth.The song dates back to at least the 1930s, when calypso pioneer King Radio recorded the song...

", recorded April 27, 1953. His breakthrough album Calypso
Calypso (album)
Calypso is the 3rd album by Harry Belafonte, released by RCA Victor in 1956. The CD was released on April 28, 1992 . It is the first full-length gramophone LP to sell over one million copies...

(1956) became the first LP
LP album
The LP, or long-playing microgroove record, is a format for phonograph records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry...

 to sell over 1 million copies (Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....

's "White Christmas
White Christmas (song)
"White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.Accounts vary as...

" and Tennessee Ernie Ford
Tennessee Ernie Ford
Ernest Jennings Ford , better known as Tennessee Ernie Ford, was an American recording artist and television host who enjoyed success in the country and Western, pop, and gospel musical genres...

's "Sixteen Tons
Sixteen Tons
"Sixteen Tons" is a song about the life of a coal miner, first recorded in 1946 by American country singer Merle Travis and released on his box set album Folk Songs of the Hills the following year...

", both singles
Single (music)
In music, a single or record single is a type of release, typically a recording of fewer tracks than an LP or a CD. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of different formats. In most cases, the single is a song that is released separately from an album, but it can still appear...

, had previously surpassed that mark). The album is number four on Billboard
Billboard (magazine)
Billboard is a weekly American magazine devoted to the music industry, and is one of the oldest trade magazines in the world. It maintains several internationally recognized music charts that track the most popular songs and albums in various categories on a weekly basis...

s "Top 100 Album" list for having spent 31 weeks at number 1, 58 weeks in the top ten, and 99 weeks on the U.S. charts. The album introduced American audiences to Calypso music
Calypso music
Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago from African and European roots. The roots of the genre lay in the arrival of enslaved Africans, who, not being allowed to speak with each other, communicated through song...

 (which had originated in Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles...

 in the early 20th century), and Belafonte was dubbed the "King of Calypso", a title he wore with reservations, since he had no claims to any Calypso Monarch titles.

One of the songs included in the album is the now famous "Banana Boat Song" (listed as "Day O" on the original release), which reached number five on the pop charts, and featured its signature lyric "Day-O." Belafonte based his version on a 1954 recording by Jamaican folk singer Louise Bennett. His other smash hit was "Jump in the Line."

Many of the compositions recorded for Calypso
Calypso (album)
Calypso is the 3rd album by Harry Belafonte, released by RCA Victor in 1956. The CD was released on April 28, 1992 . It is the first full-length gramophone LP to sell over one million copies...

,
including "Banana Boat Song" and "Jamaica Farewell
Jamaica Farewell
"Jamaica Farewell" is a calypso about the beauties of the West Indian Islands.The lyrics for the song were written by Lord Burgess . Lord Burgess was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926. His mother was from Barbados and his father was from Virginia. The song first appeared on Harry Belafonte's...

", gave songwriting credit to Irving Burgie, Belafonte and his team, but were really previously recorded Jamaican mento
Mento
Mento is a style of Jamaican folk music that predates and has greatly influenced ska and reggae music. It has its roots in calypso and other Jamaican folk music. Mento typically features acoustic instruments, such as acoustic guitar, banjo, hand drums, and the rhumba box — a large mbira in the...

 songs sold as calypso. The original Jamaican versions can now be heard on the "Jamaica—Mento1951–1958" CD released in 2010.

Middle career

While primarily known for Calypso, Belafonte has recorded in many genres, including blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, folk
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

, gospel
Gospel music
Gospel music is music that is written to express either personal, spiritual or a communal belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music....

, show tune
Show tune
A show tune is a popular song originally written as part of the score of a "show" , especially if the piece in question has become a "standard", more or less detached in most people's minds from the original context...

s, and American standards
Great American Songbook
The Great American Songbook is a hypothetical construct that seeks to represent the best American songs of the 20th century principally from Broadway theatre, musical theatre, and Hollywood musicals, from the 1920s to 1960, including dozens of songs of enduring popularity...

. His second-most popular hit, which came immediately after "The Banana Boat Song", was the novelty tune "Mama Look at Bubu", also known as "Mama Look a Boo-Boo" (originally recorded by Lord Melody
Lord Melody
Lord Melody was a popular calypsonian, best known for singles such as the self-deprecating "Boo Boo Man", "Shame & Scandal", "Jonah and the Bake", "Juanita" and "Rastaman Be Careful"...

 in 1956), in which he sings humorously about misbehaving and disrespectful children. It reached number eleven on the pop chart.

In 1959 he starred in Tonight With Belafonte, a nationally televised special that featured Odetta
Odetta
Odetta Holmes, known as Odetta, was an American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist, often referred to as "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement". Her musical repertoire consisted largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals...

, who sang Water Boy
Waterboy (song)
"Waterboy" is an American traditional folk song.Originally a black prison work song composed by Jacques Wolfe, a Romanian immigrant, Waterboy became known as a jazz arrangement by Avery Robinson popularized "Water Boy" in the 1920s...

and who performed a duet with Belafonte of There's a Hole in My Bucket
There's a Hole in My Bucket
"There's a Hole in My Bucket" is a children's song, along the same lines as "Found a Peanut". The song is based on a dialogue about a leaky bucket between two characters, called Henry and Liza. The song incorporates an infinite-loop motif: Henry has got a leaky bucket, and Liza tells him to repair...

that hit the national charts in 1961. Belafonte continued to record for RCA through the 1950s to the 1970s. Two live albums, both recorded at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

 in 1959 and 1960, enjoyed critical and commercial success. From his 1959 album, Hava Nagila
Hava Nagila
"Hava Nagila" is a Hebrew folk song that has become a staple of band performers at Jewish weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.-History:...

 became part of his regular routine and one of his signature songs. He was one of many entertainers recruited by Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

 to perform at the inaugural gala
United States presidential inaugural balls
United States presidential inaugural balls are large social gatherings, both white tie and black tie, held to celebrate the commencement of a new term of the President of the United States. Planned and sanctioned by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the official inaugural balls occur throughout...

 of President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 in 1961. That same year he released his second calypso album, Jump Up Calypso
Jump Up Calypso
Jump Up Calypso is an album by Harry Belafonte, originally released in 1961. It reached number 3 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts.Backing musicians include The Trinidad Steel Band.- Track listing :...

,
which went on to become another million seller. During the 1960s he introduced several artists to American audiences, most notably South African singer Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba , nicknamed Mama Africa, was a Grammy Award winning South African singer and civil rights activist....

 and Greek singer Nana Mouskouri
Nana Mouskouri
Nana Mouskouri , born Ioánna Moúschouri on October 13, 1934, in Chania, Crete, Greece, is a Greek singer who has sold about 300 million records worldwide in a career spanning over five decades, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She was known as Nána to her friends and...

. His album Midnight Special (1962) featured the first-ever record appearance by a then young harmonica player named Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

.

As The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

 and other stars from Britain began to dominate the U.S. pop charts, Belafonte's commercial success diminished; 1964's Belafonte at The Greek Theatre
Belafonte at The Greek Theatre
Belafonte at The Greek Theatre is a live double album by Harry Belafonte, released in 1964. It was his last album to appear in Billboard's Top 40.- Track listing :# "Look Over Yonder-Be My Woman Gal #1" – 4:42 # "Glory Manger" – 4:11...

was his last album to appear in Billboards Top 40. His last hit single, A Strange Song, was released in 1967 and peaked at number 5 on the Adult contemporary music
Adult contemporary music
Adult contemporary music is a broad style of popular music that ranges from lush 1950s and 1960s vocal music to predominantly ballad-heavy music with varying degrees of rock influence, as well as a radio format that plays such music....

 charts. Belafonte has received Grammy Award
Grammy Award
A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

s for the albums Swing Dat Hammer
Swing Dat Hammer
Swing Dat Hammer is an album by Harry Belafonte, released by RCA Victor in 1960. It is a collection of chain gang work songs...

(1960) and An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba
An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba
An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba is a Grammy Award-winning 1965 album by Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba. It was the second outcome of the long lasting collaboration between Belafonte and Makeba, the first being the appearance of Makeba in the song "Just One More Dance" on Belafonte's 1960 album,...

(1965). The latter album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under Apartheid. He earned six Gold Records.

Later recordings and other activities

Belafonte's recording activity slowed after leaving RCA in the 1970s. From the mid-1970s to early 1980s he spent the greater part of his time touring Japan, Europe, Cuba and elsewhere. His involvement in USA for Africa
USA for Africa
USA for Africa was the name under which forty-seven predominantly U.S. artists, led by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, recorded the hit single "We Are the World" in 1985. The song was a US and UK Number One for the collective in April of that year...

 during the mid-1980s resulted in renewed interest in his music, culminating in a record deal with EMI
EMI
The EMI Group, also known as EMI Music or simply EMI, is a multinational music company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the fourth-largest business group and family of record labels in the recording industry and one of the "big four" record companies. EMI Group also has a major...

. He subsequently released his first album of original material in over a decade, Paradise in Gazankulu
Paradise in Gazankulu
Paradise in Gazankulu is an album by Harry Belafonte, released in 1988. As of December 2009 it is Harry Belafonte's final studio album. The album deals with the plight of black South Africans under the Apartheid system...

,
in 1988. The album contains ten protest songs against the South African former Apartheid policy and as of 2011 was his last studio album. In the same year Belafonte, as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, attended a symposium in Harare, Zimbabwe to focus attention on child survival and development in Southern African countries. As part of the symposium, he performed a concert for UNICEF. A Kodak video crew filmed the concert, which was released as a 60-minute concert video entitled "Global Carnival." It features many of the songs from the album Paradise in Gazankulu and some of his classic hits. Also in 1988, Tim Burton
Tim Burton
Timothy William "Tim" Burton is an American film director, film producer, writer and artist. He is famous for dark, quirky-themed movies such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet...

 used "The Banana Boat Song" and "Jump in the Line" in his movie Beetlejuice
Beetlejuice
Beetlejuice is a 1988 American comedy horror film directed by Tim Burton, produced by The Geffen Film Company and distributed by Warner Bros...

."

Following a lengthy recording hiatus,
An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Friends
An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Friends
An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Friends is a live album by Harry Belafonte, released in 1997. The album is the soundtrack of a concert, televised by PBS in March 1997. It was also released as a concert video...

, a soundtrack and video of a televised concert were released in 1997 by Island Records
Island Records
Island Records is a record label that was founded by Chris Blackwell in Jamaica. It was based in the United Kingdom for many years and is now owned by Universal Music Group...

.
The Long Road to Freedom, An Anthology of Black Music, a huge multi-artist project recorded during the 1960s and 1970s with RCA, was finally released by the label in 2001. The album was nominated for the 2002 Grammy Awards for Best Boxed Recording Package, for Best Album Notes and for Best Historical Album.
Belafonte was the first African American to win an Emmy, with his first solo TV special
Tonight with Belafonte (1959). During the 1960s he appeared on TV specials alongside such artists as Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews
Dame Julia Elizabeth Andrews, DBE is an English film and stage actress, singer, and author. She is the recipient of Golden Globe, Emmy, Grammy, BAFTA, People's Choice Award, Theatre World Award, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award honors...

, Petula Clark
Petula Clark
Petula Clark, CBE is an English singer, actress, and composer whose career has spanned seven decades.Clark's professional career began as an entertainer on BBC Radio during World War II...

, Lena Horne
Lena Horne
Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was an American singer, actress, civil rights activist and dancer.Horne joined the chorus of the Cotton Club at the age of sixteen and became a nightclub performer before moving to Hollywood, where she had small parts in numerous movies, and more substantial parts in the...

 and Nana Mouskouri
Nana Mouskouri
Nana Mouskouri , born Ioánna Moúschouri on October 13, 1934, in Chania, Crete, Greece, is a Greek singer who has sold about 300 million records worldwide in a career spanning over five decades, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She was known as Nána to her friends and...

. He was also a guest star on a memorable episode of
The Muppet Show
The Muppet Show
The Muppet Show is a British television programme produced by American puppeteer Jim Henson and featuring Muppets. After two pilot episodes were produced in 1974 and 1975, the show premiered on 5 September 1976 and five series were produced until 15 March 1981, lasting 120 episodes...

 in 1978, in which he performed his signature song "Day-O" on television for the first time. The episode is best known for Belafonte's rendition of the spiritual song, "Turn the World Around", which he performed with Muppets that resembled African tribal masks. It became one of the series' most famous performances. It was reportedly Jim Henson
Jim Henson
James Maury "Jim" Henson was an American puppeteer best known as the creator of The Muppets. As a puppeteer, Henson performed in various television programs, such as Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, films such as The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper, and created advanced puppets for...

's favorite episode, and Belafonte reprised the song at Henson's memorial in 1990. "Turn the World Around" was also included in the 2005 official hymnal supplement of the Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Association , in full the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in North America, is a liberal religious association of Unitarian Universalist congregations formed by the consolidation in 1961 of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of...

, "Singing the Journey."

Belafonte received the Kennedy Center Honors
Kennedy Center Honors
The Kennedy Center Honors is an annual honor given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture. The Honors have been presented annually since 1978 in Washington, D.C., during gala weekend-long events which culminate in a performance for—and...

 in 1989. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts
National Medal of Arts
The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress in 1984, for the purpose of honoring artists and patrons of the arts. It is the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people. Honorees are selected by the National Endowment for the...

 in 1994 and he won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded by the Recording Academy to "performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording."...

 in 2000. He performed sold-out concerts globally through the 1950s to the 2000s. Due to illness he was forced to cancel a reunion tour with Nana Mouskouri
Nana Mouskouri
Nana Mouskouri , born Ioánna Moúschouri on October 13, 1934, in Chania, Crete, Greece, is a Greek singer who has sold about 300 million records worldwide in a career spanning over five decades, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She was known as Nána to her friends and...

 planned for the spring and summer of 2003 following a tour in Europe. His last concert was a benefit concert for the Atlanta Opera on October 25, 2003. In a 2007 interview he stated that he had since retired from performing.

Film career

Belafonte has starred in several films. His first film role was in Bright Road
Bright Road
Bright Road is a 1953 low-budget film adapted from the Christopher Award-winning short story "See How They Run" by Mary Elizabeth Vroman. Directed by Gerald Mayer and featuring a nearly all-black cast, the film stars Dorothy Dandridge as an idealistic first-year elementary school teacher trying to...

(1953), in which he appeared alongside Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy Jean Dandridge was an American actress and popular singer, and was the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress...

. The two subsequently starred in Otto Preminger
Otto Preminger
Otto Ludwig Preminger was an Austro–Hungarian-American theatre and film director.After moving from the theatre to Hollywood, he directed over 35 feature films in a five-decade career. He rose to prominence for stylish film noir mysteries such as Laura and Fallen Angel...

's hit musical
Carmen Jones
Carmen Jones (film)
Carmen Jones is a 1954 American musical film produced and directed by Otto Preminger. The screenplay by Harry Kleiner is based on the libretto for the 1943 stage production of the same name by Oscar Hammerstein II, which was inspired by an adaptation of the 1845 Prosper Mérimée novella Carmen by...

(1954). Ironically, Belafonte's singing in the film was dubbed by an opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 singer, as Belafonte's own singing voice was seen as unsuitable for the role. Using his star clout, Belafonte was subsequently able to realize several then-controversial film roles. In 1957's
Island in the Sun
Island in the Sun (film)
Island in the Sun is a 1957 film that stars an ensemble cast including James Mason, Joan Fontaine, Dorothy Dandridge, Joan Collins, Michael Rennie and Harry Belafonte. The cast includes also Diana Wynyard, Patricia Owens and Stephen Boyd. The film is about race relations and interracial romance...

, there are hints of an affair between Belafonte's character and the character played by Joan Fontaine
Joan Fontaine
Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland , known professionally as Joan Fontaine, is a British American actress. She and her elder sister Olivia de Havilland are two of the last surviving leading ladies from Hollywood of the 1930s....

. The film also starred James Mason
James Mason
James Neville Mason was an English actor who attained stardom in both British and American films. Mason remained a powerful figure in the industry throughout his career and was nominated for three Academy Awards as well as three Golden Globes .- Early life :Mason was born in Huddersfield, in the...

, Dandridge, Joan Collins
Joan Collins
Joan Henrietta Collins, OBE , is an English actress, author, and columnist. Born in Paddington and raised in Maida Vale, Collins grew up during the Second World War. At the age of nine, she made her stage debut in A Doll's House and after attending school, she was classically trained as an actress...

, Michael Rennie
Michael Rennie
Michael Rennie was an English film, television, and stage actor, perhaps best known for his starring role as the space visitor Klaatu in the 1951 classic science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. However, he appeared in over 50 other films since 1936, many with Jean Simmons and other...

 and John Justin
John Justin
John Justin was a British stage and film actor.John Justinian de Ledesma was born in London, England, the son of a well-off Argentine rancher. Though he grew up on his father's ranch, he was educated at Bryanston School, Dorset...

. In 1959, he starred in and produced Robert Wise
Robert Wise
Robert Earl Wise was an American sound effects editor, film editor, film producer and director...

's
Odds Against Tomorrow
Odds Against Tomorrow
Odds Against Tomorrow is a 1959 film noir produced and directed by Robert Wise for HarBel Productions, a company founded by the film's star, Harry Belafonte. Belafonte selected Abraham Polonsky to write the script, which is based on a novel by William P. McGivern. As a blacklisted writer Polonsky...

, in which he plays a bank robber uncomfortably teamed with a racist partner (Robert Ryan
Robert Ryan
Robert Bushnell Ryan was an American actor who often played hardened cops and ruthless villains.-Early life and career:...

). He also co-starred with Inger Stevens
Inger Stevens
Inger Stevens was a Swedish-American movie and TV actress.- Early life :Inger Stevens was born Inger Stensland in Stockholm, Sweden. She was an insecure child and was often ill. When she was nine, her parents divorced and she moved with her father to New York City...

 in
The World, the Flesh and the Devil. Belafonte was offered the role of Porgy
Porgy
Porgy is a novel written by American author DuBose Heyward in 1925, as well as a play Dorothy Heyward helped him to write which debuted in 1927....

 in Preminger's
Porgy and Bess, where he would have once again starred opposite Dandridge, but he refused the role because he objected to its racial stereotyping.

Dissatisfied with the film roles available to him, he returned to music during the 1960s. In the early 1970s Belafonte appeared in more films among which are two with Poitier:
Buck and the Preacher
Buck and the Preacher
Buck and the Preacher is a 1972 American Western film starring Sidney Poitier as Buck and Harry Belafonte as the Preacher. Buck is a trail guide leading groups of former slaves trying to homestead in the West, immediately after the American Civil War. The Preacher is a swindling minister of the...

(1972) and Uptown Saturday Night
Uptown Saturday Night
Uptown Saturday Night is a 1974 comedy film written by Richard Wesley, and directed by Sidney Poitier. Poitier also stars in this film, along with Bill Cosby and Harry Belafonte. Cosby and Poitier teamed up again for Let's Do It Again and A Piece of the Action...

(1974). In 1984 Belafonte produced and scored the musical film Beat Street
Beat Street
Beat Street is a 1984 drama film, following Wild Style in featuring New York City hip hop culture of the early 1980s; breakdancing, DJing, and graffiti.-Plot:...

, dealing with the rise of hip-hop
Hip hop
Hip hop is a form of musical expression and artistic culture that originated in African-American and Latino communities during the 1970s in New York City, specifically the Bronx. DJ Afrika Bambaataa outlined the four pillars of hip hop culture: MCing, DJing, breaking and graffiti writing...

 culture. Together with Arthur Baker
Arthur Baker (musician)
Arthur Baker is an American record producer and DJ best known for his work with hip hop artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Planet Patrol, and the British group New Order.-Early career:...

, he produced the gold-certified soundtrack of the same name
Beat Street (soundtrack)
Beat Street: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Beat Street, Vol. 2: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack are soundtrack albums for the 1984 drama film of the same name. It was released in 1984 by Atlantic Records...

. Belafonte next starred in a major film again in the mid-1990s, appearing with John Travolta
John Travolta
John Joseph Travolta is an American actor, dancer and singer. Travolta first became known in the 1970s, after appearing on the television series Welcome Back, Kotter and starring in the box office successes Saturday Night Fever and Grease...

 in the race-reverse drama
White Man's Burden
White Man's Burden (film)
White Man's Burden is a 1995 dramatic film about racism in an alternative America where black and white Americans have reversed cultural roles....

(1995); and in Robert Altman
Robert Altman
Robert Bernard Altman was an American film director and screenwriter known for making films that are highly naturalistic, but with a stylized perspective. In 2006, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized his body of work with an Academy Honorary Award.His films MASH , McCabe and...

's jazz age
Jazz Age
The Jazz Age was a movement that took place during the 1920s or the Roaring Twenties from which jazz music and dance emerged. The movement came about with the introduction of mainstream radio and the end of the war. This era ended in the 1930s with the beginning of The Great Depression but has...

 drama
Kansas City
Kansas City (1996 film)
Kansas City is a 1996 film, directed by Robert Altman, and featuring numerous jazz tracks. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, and Steve Buscemi starred. The film was entered into the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.-Plot:...

(1996), the latter of which garnered him the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also starred as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 in the TV drama
Swing Vote (1999). In late 2006, Belafonte appeared in the role of Nelson, a friend of an employee of the Ambassador Hotel played by Anthony Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins
Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins, KBE , best known as Anthony Hopkins, is a Welsh actor of film, stage and television...

, in
Bobby
Bobby (2006 film)
Bobby is a 2006 American drama film written and directed by Emilio Estevez. The screenplay is a fictionalized account of the hours leading up to the June 5, 1968 shooting of United States Senator from New York and former U.S. Attorney General Robert F...

, Emilio Estevez
Emilio Estevez
Emilio Estevez is an American actor, film director, and writer. He started his career as an actor and is well-known for being a member of the acting Brat Pack of the 1980s, starring in The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire...

's ensemble drama about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

Personal life

Belafonte and Marguerite Byrd were married from 1948 to 1957. They have two daughters: Adrienne and Shari. Shari Belafonte
Shari Belafonte
Shari Belafonte is an American actress, model, writer and singer. The daughter of singer Harry Belafonte, she is known for her role as Julie Gilette on the 1980s television series Hotel and as a spokesperson for the diet supplement Slim-Fast during the 1990s.-Personal life:Shari Lynn Belafonte was...

, married to Sam Behrens
Sam Behrens
Sam Behrens is an actor most notably recognized from his role as Gregory Richards in Aaron Spelling's Sunset Beach. He has been married to Shari Belafonte since December 31, 1989.-Filmography:...

, is a photographer, model
Model (person)
A model , sometimes called a mannequin, is a person who is employed to display, advertise and promote commercial products or to serve as a subject of works of art....

, singer and actress
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

. In 1997 Adrienne Biesemeyer and her daughter Rachel Blue founded the Anir Foundation/Experience. Anir focuses on humanitarian work in southern Africa.

On March 8, 1957, Belafonte married second wife Julie Robinson (former dancer with the Katherine Dunham Company
Katherine Dunham Company
The Katherine Dunham Company, a troupe of dancers, singers, actors and musicians, was the first African American modern dance company. It descended from Ballet Negre, a student troupe founded by Katherine Dunham, which later became the Negro Dance Troupe.The company had successful runs on Broadway...

). They had two children, David and Gina Belafonte. David Belafonte (a former model and actor) is an Emmy-winning producer and the executive director of the family-held company Belafonte Enterprises Inc. A music producer, he has been involved in most of Belafonte's albums and tours. David married Danish model, singer and TV personality Malena Belafonte
Malena Belafonte
Malena Belafonte is an international fashion model.-Career:Malena Belafonte was a model with famed Wilhelmina Models. She appeared in magazines such as Elle, Bazaar, Shape as well as clients such as Manolo Blahnik and Neiman Marcus...

, born Mathiesen, who won silver in Dancing with the Stars
Dancing with the Stars
Dancing with the Stars is the name of several international television series based on the format of the British TV series Strictly Come Dancing, which is distributed by BBC Worldwide – the commercial arm of the BBC. Currently the format has been licensed to over 35 countries...

 in Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 in 2009. Malena Belafonte founded Speyer Legacy School, an award winning private elementary school
Elementary school
An elementary school or primary school is an institution where children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as elementary or primary education. Elementary school is the preferred term in some countries, particularly those in North America, where the terms grade school and grammar...

 for gifted and talented children. David and Malena's daughter Sarafina attended this school. Gina Belafonte is a TV and film actress and worked with her father as coach and producer on more than six films. Gina helped found The Gathering For Justice, an intergenerational, intercultural non-profit organization working to reintroduce nonviolence to stop child incarceration. She is married to actor Scott McCray.

In April 2008, Belafonte married Pamela . Belafonte lived in a 21-room apartment at 300 West End Avenue (corner of 74th Street) in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 for 50 years. In 2007 he sold his fifth-floor apartment to Abigail Disney
Abigail Disney
Abigail E. Disney is a filmmaker, philanthropist, and scholar known for her documentary films focused on social themes.- Biography :Abigail E. Disney was born in 1960 and was raised in North Hollywood, California. She is the daughter of Roy E. Disney and granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, co-founder...

 for 10.8 million dollars. In October 1998 Belafonte contributed a letter to Liv Ullmann
Liv Ullmann
Liv Johanne Ullmann is a Norwegian actress and film director, as well as one of the "muses" of the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman...

's book Letter to My Grandchild.

Political and humanitarian activism

Belafonte's political beliefs were greatly inspired by the singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson
Paul Leroy Robeson was an American concert singer , recording artist, actor, athlete, scholar who was an advocate for the Civil Rights Movement in the first half of the twentieth century...

, who mentored him. Robeson opposed not only racial prejudice in the United States, but also western colonialism
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 in Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. Belafonte's success did not protect him from racial discrimination, particularly in the American South. Belafonte refused to perform there from 1954 until 1961. In 1960 he appeared in a campaign commercial for Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

. Kennedy later named Belafonte cultural advisor to the Peace Corps
Peace Corps
The Peace Corps is an American volunteer program run by the United States Government, as well as a government agency of the same name. The mission of the Peace Corps includes three goals: providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand US culture, and helping...

.

Belafonte gave the keynote address at the ACLU of Northern California's annual Bill of Rights Day Celebration In December 2007 and was awarded the Chief Justice Earl Warren
Earl Warren
Earl Warren was the 14th Chief Justice of the United States.He is known for the sweeping decisions of the Warren Court, which ended school segregation and transformed many areas of American law, especially regarding the rights of the accused, ending public-school-sponsored prayer, and requiring...

 Civil Liberties Award. The 2011 Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival
The Sundance Film Festival is a film festival that takes place annually in Utah, in the United States. It is the largest independent cinema festival in the United States. Held in January in Park City, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, as well as at the Sundance Resort, the festival is a showcase for new...

 featured the documentary film "Sing Your Song", a biographical film focusing on Belafonte's contribution to and his leadership in the civil rights movement in America and his endeavours to promote social justice globally.

Civil rights activist

Belafonte supported the Civil Rights Movement
Civil rights movement
The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was...

 in the 1950s and was one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s confidants. He provided for King's family, since King made only $8,000 a year as a preacher. Like many other civil rights activists, Belafonte was blacklisted
Hollywood blacklist
The Hollywood blacklist—as the broader entertainment industry blacklist is generally known—was the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or...

 during the McCarthy era
McCarthyism
McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term has its origins in the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and characterized by...

. He bail
Bail
Traditionally, bail is some form of property deposited or pledged to a court to persuade it to release a suspect from jail, on the understanding that the suspect will return for trial or forfeit the bail...

ed King out of the Birmingham City Jail and raised thousands of dollars to release other civil rights protesters. He financed the Freedom Rides, supported voter registration drive
Voter registration drive
A voter registration drive is an effort, often undertaken by a political campaign, political party, or other outside groups , that seeks to register to vote those who are eligible but not registered...

s, and helped to organize the March on Washington in 1963.

During "Freedom Summer
Freedom Summer
Freedom Summer was a campaign in the United States launched in June 1964 to attempt to register as many African American voters as possible in Mississippi which had historically excluded most blacks from voting...

" in 1964 Belafonte bankrolled the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, flying to Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 that August with $60,000 in cash and entertaining crowds in Greenwood. In 1968 Belafonte appeared on a Petula Clark
Petula Clark
Petula Clark, CBE is an English singer, actress, and composer whose career has spanned seven decades.Clark's professional career began as an entertainer on BBC Radio during World War II...

 primetime television special on NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

. In the middle of a song, Clark smiled and briefly touched Belafonte's arm, which made the show's sponsor, Plymouth Motors, nervous. Plymouth wanted to cut the segment, but Clark, who had ownership of the special, told NBC that the performance would be shown intact or she would not allow the special to be aired at all. Newspapers reported the controversy, and when the special aired it grabbed high ratings. Belafonte appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is an American comedy and variety show hosted by the Smothers Brothers and initially airing on CBS from 1967 to 1969.-History:...

 and performed a controversial "Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras
The terms "Mardi Gras" , "Mardi Gras season", and "Carnival season", in English, refer to events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday...

" number with footage intercut from the 1968 Democratic National Convention
1968 Democratic National Convention
The 1968 Democratic National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois, from August 26 to August 29, 1968. Because Democratic President Lyndon Johnson had announced he would not seek a second term, the purpose of the convention was to...

 riots. CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 censors deleted the segment.

Humanitarian activist

In 1985, he helped organize the Grammy Award winning song "We Are the World
We Are the World
"We Are the World" is a song and charity single originally recorded by the supergroup USA for Africa in 1985. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World...

", a multi-artist effort to raise funds for Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. He performed in the Live Aid
Live Aid
Live Aid was a dual-venue concert that was held on 13 July 1985. The event was organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine. Billed as the "global jukebox", the event was held simultaneously in Wembley Stadium in London, England, United Kingdom ...

 concert that same year. In 1987 he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador. Following his appointment Belafonte traveled to Dakar
Dakar
Dakar is the capital city and largest city of Senegal. It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city on the African mainland...

, Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

, where he served as chairman of the International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children. He also helped to raise funds—alongside more than 20 other artists—in the largest concert ever held in sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

. In 1994 he went on a mission to Rwanda
Rwanda
Rwanda or , officially the Republic of Rwanda , is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million . Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

 and launched a media campaign to raise awareness of the needs of Rwandan children.

In 2001 he went to South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 to support the campaign against HIV/AIDS. In 2002 Africare
Africare
Africare is a non-profit organization based in the United States which provides development aid for Africa. Africare was founded in 1970 by former Peace Corps members who had worked in eastern Niger, as well as a Nigerian diplomat. Africare now provides aid for approximately 25 countries in every...

 awarded him the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award
Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award
The Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award is an award presented annually by Africare to recognize those whose work has made a significant impact on raising the standard of living in Africa. The award is named after John T. Walker, former Episcopal Bishop of Washington,...

 for his efforts to assist Africa. In 2004 Belafonte went to Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

 to stress the importance of educating children in the region. Belafonte has been involved in prostate cancer
Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. Most prostate cancers are slow growing; however, there are cases of aggressive prostate cancers. The cancer cells may metastasize from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly...

 advocacy since 1996, when he was diagnosed and successfully treated for the disease. On June 27, 2006, Belafonte was the recipient of the BET
Black Entertainment Television
Black Entertainment Television is an American, Viacom-owned cable network based in Washington, D.C.. Currently viewed in more than 90 million homes worldwide, it is the most prominent television network targeting young Black-American audiences. The network was launched on January 25, 1980, by its...

 Humanitarian Award at the 2006 BET Awards. He was named one of nine 2006 Impact Award recipients by AARP The Magazine
AARP The Magazine
AARP The Magazine is a bi-monthly magazine published by AARP, which focuses on aging issues. Established in 1958, it was known until 2002 as Modern Maturity. The editor is Nancy Perry Graham ; the managing editor is John Stoltenberg...

.

On October 19, 2007, Belafonte represented UNICEF on Norwegian
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 television to support the annual telethon (TV Aksjonen) in support of that charity and helped raise a world record of $10 per inhabitant of Norway. Belafonte was also an ambassador for the Bahamas. He is on the board of directors of the Advancement Project.

Political activist

Belafonte has been a longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy. He began making controversial political statements on this subject in the early 1980s. He has at various times made statements opposing the U.S. embargo on Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

; praising Soviet peace initiatives; attacking the U.S. invasion of Grenada; praising the Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Abraham Lincoln Brigade
The Abraham Lincoln Brigade refers to volunteers from the United States who served in the Spanish Civil War in the International Brigades. They fought for Spanish Republican forces against Franco and the Spanish Nationalists....

; honoring Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and praising Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

. Belafonte is additionally known for his visit to Cuba which helped ensure hip-hop’s place in Cuban society. According to Geoffrey Baker’s article “Hip hop, Revolucion! Nationalizing Rap in Cuba,” in 1999 Belafonte met with representatives of the rap community immediately before meeting with Fidel Castro. This meeting resulted in Castro’s personal approval of (and hence the government’s involvement in), the incorporation of rap into his country’s culture. In a 2003 interview Belafonte reflected upon this meeting’s influence:

“When I went back to Havana a couple years later, the people in the hip-hop community came to see me and we hung out for a bit. They thanked me profusely and I said, 'Why?' and they said, 'Because your little conversation with Fidel and the Minister of Culture on hip-hop led to there being a special division within the ministry and we've got our own studio'."

Belafonte was active in the anti-apartheid movement. He was the Master of Ceremonies at a reception honoring African National Congress
African National Congress
The African National Congress is South Africa's governing Africanist political party, supported by its tripartite alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party , since the establishment of non-racial democracy in April 1994. It defines itself as a...

 President Oliver Tambo
Oliver Tambo
Oliver Reginald Tambo was a South African anti-apartheid politician and a central figure in the African National Congress .-Biography:Oliver Tambo was born in Bizana in eastern Pondoland in what is now Eastern Cape...

 at Roosevelt House, Hunter College, in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. The reception was held by the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) and The Africa Fund.
He is a current board member of the TransAfrica Forum
TransAfrica Forum
TransAfrica Forum is an advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. that seeks to influence the foreign policy of the United States concerning African countries and the African diaspora.-See also:* Diaspora politics in the United States...

 and the Institute for Policy Studies
Institute for Policy Studies
Institute for Policy Studies is a left-wing think tank based in Washington, D.C..It has been directed by John Cavanagh since 1998- History :...

.

In December 2007 he endorsed John Edwards
John Edwards
Johnny Reid "John" Edwards is an American politician, who served as a U.S. Senator from North Carolina. He was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2004, and was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and 2008.He defeated incumbent Republican Lauch Faircloth in...

 for the 2008 Presidential Election.

Opposition to the George W. Bush Administration

Belafonte achieved widespread attention for his political views in 2002 when he began making a series of comments about President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

, his administration and the Iraq War. During an interview with Ted Leitner
Ted Leitner
Ted Leitner is a former KFMB News 8 sportscaster and current radio play-by-play announcer for the San Diego Padres and San Diego State Aztecs men's basketball. He is also a former host on KFMB radio in San Diego. Due to a hectic schedule, he left KFMB just three days shy of his 25th anniversary at...

 for San Diego's 760 KFMB, in October 2002 Belafonte referred to a quote made by Malcolm X
Malcolm X
Malcolm X , born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its...

. Belafonte said:
Belafonte used the quote to characterize former United States Secretaries of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice is an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush...

, both African-Americans. Powell and Rice both responded, with Powell calling the remarks "unfortunate" and Rice saying "I don't need Harry Belafonte to tell me what it means to be black."

The comment was brought up again in an interview with Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman is an American progressive broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, investigative reporter and author. Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, an independent global news program broadcast daily on radio, television and the internet.-Early life:Goodman was born in Bay Shore, New York...

 for Democracy Now!
Democracy Now!
Democracy Now! and its staff have received several journalism awards, including the Gracie Award from American Women in Radio & Television; the George Polk Award for its 1998 radio documentary Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship, on the Chevron Corporation and the deaths of...

 in 2006. In January 2006, Belafonte led a delegation of activists including actor Danny Glover
Danny Glover
Danny Lebern Glover is an American actor, film director, and political activist. Glover is perhaps best known for his role as Detective Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon film franchise.-Early life:...

 and activist/professor Cornel West
Cornel West
Cornel Ronald West is an American philosopher, author, critic, actor, civil rights activist and prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America....

 to meet with President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

. In 2005 Chávez, an outspoken Bush critic, initiated a program to provide cheaper heating oil
Heating oil
Heating oil, or oil heat, is a low viscosity, flammable liquid petroleum product used as a fuel for furnaces or boilers in buildings. Home heating oil is often abbreviated as HHO...

 for poor people in several areas of the United States. Belafonte supported this initiative. Belafonte was quoted as saying, during the meeting with Chávez, "No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

 in the world, George W. Bush says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people support your revolution." Belafonte and Glover met again with Chávez in 2006. The comment ignited a great deal of controversy. Hillary Clinton refused to acknowledge Belafonte's presence at an awards ceremony that featured both of them. AARP
AARP
AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, is the United States-based non-governmental organization and interest group, founded in 1958 by Ethel Percy Andrus, PhD, a retired educator from California, and based in Washington, D.C. According to its mission statement, it is "a...

, which had just named him one of its 10 Impact Award honorees 2006, released this statement following the remarks: "AARP does not condone the manner and tone which he has chosen and finds his comments completely unacceptable." During a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speech at Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...

 in 2006 Belafonte compared the American government to the 9/11 hijackers, saying, "What is the difference between that terrorist and other terrorists?" In response to criticism about his remarks Belafonte asked, "What do you call Bush when the war he put us in to date has killed almost as many Americans as died on 9/11 and the number of Americans wounded in war is almost triple? [...] By most definitions Bush can be considered a terrorist." When he was asked about his expectation of criticism for his remarks on the war in Iraq, Belafonte responded: "Bring it on. Dissent
Dissent
Dissent is a sentiment or philosophy of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea or an entity...

 is central to any democracy."

In another interview Belafonte remarked that while his comments may have been "hasty", nevertheless he felt the Bush administration suffered from "arrogance wedded to ignorance" and its policies around the world were "morally bankrupt." In January 2006, in a speech to the annual meeting of the Arts Presenters Members Conference, Belafonte referred to "the new Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 of Homeland Security
Homeland security
Homeland security is an umbrella term for security efforts to protect states against terrorist activity. Specifically, is a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the U.S., reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do...

" saying, "You can be arrested and have no right to counsel
Right to counsel
Right to counsel is currently generally regarded as a constituent of the right to a fair trial, allowing for the defendant to be assisted by counsel , and if he cannot afford his own lawyer, requiring that the government should appoint one for him/her, or pay his/her legal expenses...

!" During the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speech at the Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...

 in January 2006 Belafonte said that if he could choose his epitaph it would be, "Harry Belafonte, Patriot."

Filmography

  • Bright Road
    Bright Road
    Bright Road is a 1953 low-budget film adapted from the Christopher Award-winning short story "See How They Run" by Mary Elizabeth Vroman. Directed by Gerald Mayer and featuring a nearly all-black cast, the film stars Dorothy Dandridge as an idealistic first-year elementary school teacher trying to...

    (1953)
  • Carmen Jones
    Carmen Jones (film)
    Carmen Jones is a 1954 American musical film produced and directed by Otto Preminger. The screenplay by Harry Kleiner is based on the libretto for the 1943 stage production of the same name by Oscar Hammerstein II, which was inspired by an adaptation of the 1845 Prosper Mérimée novella Carmen by...

    (1954)
  • Island in the Sun
    Island in the Sun (film)
    Island in the Sun is a 1957 film that stars an ensemble cast including James Mason, Joan Fontaine, Dorothy Dandridge, Joan Collins, Michael Rennie and Harry Belafonte. The cast includes also Diana Wynyard, Patricia Owens and Stephen Boyd. The film is about race relations and interracial romance...

    (1957)
  • The Heart of Show Business (1957) (short subject)
  • The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959)
  • Odds Against Tomorrow
    Odds Against Tomorrow
    Odds Against Tomorrow is a 1959 film noir produced and directed by Robert Wise for HarBel Productions, a company founded by the film's star, Harry Belafonte. Belafonte selected Abraham Polonsky to write the script, which is based on a novel by William P. McGivern. As a blacklisted writer Polonsky...

    (1959)
  • King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis (1970) (documentary) (narrator)
  • The Angel Levine
    The Angel Levine
    The Angel Levine is a 1970 U.S. film directed by Jan Kadar and based on a short story by Bernard Malamud. The film is about an impoverished New York City tailor who is unable to work due to health problems, which creates a financial strain since his wife is seriously ill...

    (1970)
  • Buck and the Preacher
    Buck and the Preacher
    Buck and the Preacher is a 1972 American Western film starring Sidney Poitier as Buck and Harry Belafonte as the Preacher. Buck is a trail guide leading groups of former slaves trying to homestead in the West, immediately after the American Civil War. The Preacher is a swindling minister of the...

    (1972)
  • Uptown Saturday Night
    Uptown Saturday Night
    Uptown Saturday Night is a 1974 comedy film written by Richard Wesley, and directed by Sidney Poitier. Poitier also stars in this film, along with Bill Cosby and Harry Belafonte. Cosby and Poitier teamed up again for Let's Do It Again and A Piece of the Action...

    (1974)
  • Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker (1981) (documentary)
  • A veces miro mi vida (1982)
  • Drei Lieder (1983) (short subject)
  • Sag nein (1983) (documentary)
  • Der Schönste Traum (1984) (documentary)
  • We Shall Overcome (1989) (documentary) (narrator)
  • The Player
    The Player
    The Player is a 1992 American satirical film directed by Robert Altman from a screenplay by Michael Tolkin based on his own 1988 novel of the same name....

    (1992) (Cameo)
  • Ready to Wear
    Prêt-à-Porter (film)
    Prêt-à-Porter is a 1994 American satirical black comedy film co-written, directed, and produced by Robert Altman and shot during the Paris, France, Fashion Week with a host of international stars, models and designers...

    (1994) (Cameo)
  • Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream
    Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream
    Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream is a 1995 documentary film directed by Michael Tollin. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature....

    (1995)
  • White Man's Burden
    White Man's Burden (film)
    White Man's Burden is a 1995 dramatic film about racism in an alternative America where black and white Americans have reversed cultural roles....

    (1995)
  • Jazz '34 (1996)
  • Kansas City
    Kansas City (1996 film)
    Kansas City is a 1996 film, directed by Robert Altman, and featuring numerous jazz tracks. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, and Steve Buscemi starred. The film was entered into the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.-Plot:...

    (1996)
  • Scandalize My Name: Stories from the Blacklist (1998) (documentary)
  • Fidel
    Fidel (2001 documentary)
    Fidel: The Untold Story was a documentary released in 2001 by Estela Bravo.The film featured interviews with:*Phillip Agee*Muhammad Ali*Harry Belafonte*Ramsey Clark*Angela Davis*Elián González*Nelson Mandela*Gabriel García Márquez*Ted Turner...

    (2001) (documentary)
  • XXI Century (2003) (documentary)
  • Conakry Kas (2003) (documentary)
  • Ladders (2004) (documentary) (narrator)
  • Mo & Me (2006) (documentary)
  • Bobby
    Bobby (2006 film)
    Bobby is a 2006 American drama film written and directed by Emilio Estevez. The screenplay is a fictionalized account of the hours leading up to the June 5, 1968 shooting of United States Senator from New York and former U.S. Attorney General Robert F...

    (2006)
  • Motherland
    Motherland (film)
    Motherland is a 2010 independent documentary film directed and written by Owen 'Alik Shahadah. Motherland is the sequel to the multiaward winning film 500 Years Later.- Synopsis:...

    (2009) (documentary)
  • Sing Your Song (2011) (documentary)

Television work

  • Sugar Hill Times (1949–1950)
  • Tonight With Belafonte (1959)
  • Petula (1968)
  • A World in Music (1969)
  • Harry & Lena, For The Love Of Life (1969)
  • A World in Love (1970)
  • Free to Be… You and Me
    Free to Be… You and Me
    Free to Be… You and Me, a project of the Ms. Foundation for Women, is a record album and illustrated book first released in November 1972 featuring songs and stories sung or told by celebrities of the day including Alan Alda, Rosey Grier, Cicely Tyson, Carol Channing, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross...

    (1974)
  • The Muppet Show
    The Muppet Show
    The Muppet Show is a British television programme produced by American puppeteer Jim Henson and featuring Muppets. After two pilot episodes were produced in 1974 and 1975, the show premiered on 5 September 1976 and five series were produced until 15 March 1981, lasting 120 episodes...

    (1978)
  • Grambling's White Tiger (1981)
  • Don't Stop The Carnival (1985)
  • An Evening With Harry Belafonte And Friends (1997)
  • Swing Vote (1999)
  • Tanner on Tanner
    Tanner on Tanner
    Tanner on Tanner is a 2004 comedy and the sequel series to the 1988 Robert Altman directed and Garry Trudeau written miniseries about a failed presidential candidate, Tanner '88...

    (2004)
  • That's What I'm Talking About (2006) (miniseries)
  • When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
    When the Levees Broke
    When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts is a 2006 documentary film directed by Spike Lee about the devastation of New Orleans, Louisiana due to the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina. It was filmed in late August and early September 2005, and premiered at the New Orleans Arena on...

    (2006) (miniseries)

Concert videos

  • Don't Stop The Carnival (1985)
  • Global Carnival (1988)
  • An Evening With Harry Belafonte And Friends (1997)

Stage work

  • John Murray Anderson's Almanac (December 10, 1953 – June 26, 1954)
  • 3 for Tonight (April 6 – June 18, 1955)
  • Moonbirds (October 9–10, 1959) (producer)
  • Belafonte at the Palace (December 15, 1959 – closing date unknown)
  • Asinamali! (April 23 – May 17, 1987) (producer)

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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