Singer-Songwriter, Actor, And Activist Harry Belafonte Dead at 96

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Harry Belafonte, Civil Rights, Actor, Singer-songwriter, Caribbean, Activism

Harry Belafonte, often referred to as “the King of Calypso”, has died at 96 years old. His representative Paula Witt confirmed that his cause of death was congestive heart failure. Belafonte is known for his Caribbean-pop hits “Jump In The Line” “Banana Boat” and more. His notable films include “The Buck And The Preacher,” “White Man’s Burden,” and more. The actor and musician dedicated much of his later career to philanthropy and activism.

The multi-hyphenate grew up in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. He wrote in a memoir in 2011 that he “wasn’t an artist who became an activist. I was an activist who became an artist.” Belafonte notably supported organizations that specialize in cancer research, and played an important role in the Civil Rights movement. Given his own mixed Caribbean heritage, Belafonte was also an outspoken critic of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.


Today, Belafonte’s various contributions to both the arts and progressive causes are being honored by his contemporaries. Bernice A. King, the CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the daughter of Marin Luther King Jr., posted a powerful image of Belafonte at her father’s funeral. King penned a tribute not only about his contributions to her family’s movement, but also his compassion.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders additionally shared a photo alongside the singer, reminding his Twitter followers that Belafonte also worked to help protect the rights of workers. Sanders has long been an advocate for labor unions, and is currently fighting Starbucks on allegations of union busting.  

Journalist Christiane Amanpour additionally shared a memory with Belafonte on social media. Amanpour credited him with inspiring generations of activists to come.


Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick also shared a photo from his meeting with the late singer. Kaepernick famously made headlines for taking a knee during the national anthem at NFL games to protest police brutality against the Black community.

Others share memories of some of the late multi-hyphenate’s most notable works as an actor and musician.


He is survived by his wife, Pamela Frank, and his four children, Shari Belafonte, Adrienne Belafonte Biesmeyer, David Belafonte, and Gina Belafonte.


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