Public Domain
  • Faith: Catholic
  • Career: Actor
  • Birthday:  March 01, 1927
  • Date of Death:  April 25, 2023

Harry Belafonte was an actor, singer, and activist who popularized calypso music with international audiences in the 1950s and 60s. Belafonte earned his career breakthrough with the 1956 album "Calypso," the first million-selling EP by a single artist.

Belafonte was best known for his recordings of "Jump in the Line," "Day-O (The Banana Song)," "Jamaica Farewell," and "Mary's Boy Child." He recorded and performed in numerous genres, including gospel, blues, folk, and show tunes. Belafonte also starred in movies like "Carmen Jones,” "Island in the Sun,” "Buck and the Preacher,” "Odds Against Tomorrow," and "Uptown Saturday Night." He made his last feature film appearance in Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman" in 2018. He considered Paul Robeson, the singer and actor, as a mentor.

Belafonte was a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He was a vocal critic of the policies of George W. Bush and Donald Trump administrations. He was the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues. Belafonte won three Grammys, an Emmy, and a Tony Award. In 1989, he received the Kennedy Center Honors. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994.

In 2014, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy's 6th Annual Governors Awards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Early Influence category in 2022. He's among the few performers to have received an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony, or EGOT, though his Oscar was won in a non-competitive category.

Belafonte was born in Harlem, New York, the son of Jamaican-born parents. His father, Harold, worked as a chef, while his mother, Melvine, worked as a housekeeper. Belafonte was raised Catholic and attended parochial school at St. Charles Borromeo. In April 2023, Belafonte died at 96 years old from congestive heart failure at his home in Manhattan.

Was Harry Belafonte religious?

Although Belafonte had some Jewish heritage on his mother's side, he was raised Catholic. In 1957, he married his second wife, Julie Robinson, who was of Jewish descent, but the couple ultimately divorced in 2004. In his memoir, Belafonte noted that many of his collaborators in the 20th-century progressive movement were nuns. He wrote, "I still had such conflicted feelings about the church, such anger at those Catholic nuns who'd rapped my knuckles long ago. But these ladies, these activist nuns, were a very different breed, and I felt blessed, there was no other word for it, at being in their company."

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