Born to West Indian immigrants in Harlem, Harry Belafonte captivated audiences with his singing and almost single-handedly ignited the Caribbean music scene. With his outstanding beauty, he became a movie star and won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. For a while, he was the highest paid black performer in history.
But Mr. Belafonte, who died Tuesday, was more than an entertainer; from the late 1950s until the end of his life, his main focus was civil rights. He became a confidant of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and participated in the 1963 March on Washington. In the 1980s, he helped organize a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa to raise funds to fight famine in Africa.
In all his endeavors, he broke down racial barriers but ultimately never saw the progress he hoped for, writing in his autobiography, “The problems facing most people of color seem as dire and ingrained as they were half a century ago.” .”
Below is a selection of images from the life of Mr. Belafonte.
In October 1953, Mr. Belafonte sang on Ed Sullivan’s popular CBS-TV variety show. That year, he also appeared on Broadway in 1953’s John Murray Anderson’s Almanac, a performance that earned him a Tony Award.
In 1957, Mr. Belafonte took part in a “pilgrimage to pray for freedom” in Washington.
In 1956, Mr. Belafonte performed at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.
Mr. Belafonte with Dorothy Dandridge in the 1954 film musical Carmen Jones. While both were accomplished singers, their singing voices were dubbed by opera singers.
In 1960, Mr. Belafonte returned to Broadway with a one-man show, “Belafonte at the Palace.”
Mr. Belafonte speaking at a civil rights rally in New York City, May 1960.
Mr. Belafonte is pictured with his wife Julie and his children (from left) Gina, David and Adrienne at JFK Airport in 1961 before heading to the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas for a long-term engagement.
Mr. Belafonte joined Dr. King’s widow Coretta Scott King (centre, man in black) and others in a march shortly after the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Beside her, her children on one side and the Reverend Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young on the other.
Mr. Belafonte and Sidney Poitier at a civil rights rally. They met several years ago at the African American Theater in New York, where Mr. Belafonte worked as a stagehand while studying drama.
In 1969, Mr. Belafonte starred in a TV special with Julie Andrews. This was his second TV appearance with a white female singer (the first was with Petula Clark); both appearances angered many viewers.
Mr. Belafonte, second from left, in Chicago in 1966, with, from left, Sidney Poitier, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and civil rights activist Al Raby.
Mr. Belafonte and Lena Horne at a campaign in support of civil rights activist Andrew Young for Congress in 1970.
In 1977, Mr. Belafonte performed in concert at the London Palladium.
In 1984, Mr Belafonte took part in an anti-apartheid protest outside the South African embassy in Washington.
Mr Belafonte visited Kenya in 2004 as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to monitor the success of free primary education there.
Mr. Belafonte received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2014 from Mr. Poitier.