- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame
Harold Belafonte
Harold George
"Harry" Belafonte, Jr.
1929 - present

Jamaican-American musician, actor and human rights activist Harry Belafonte joined the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. He became one of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s closest confidants. Over the years he organized demonstrations, raised money and contributed his personal funds to keep movement activities going. Belafonte has advocated for a range of other humanitarian causes. In 1985, he helped to orchestrate the recording of the Grammy Award winning song "We Are The World," a multi-artist effort to raise funds for Africa. In 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador. Belafonte has been involved in prostate cancer advocacy since 2006, when he was diagnosed and successfully treated for the disease Belafonte achieved fame when his 1956 breakthrough album Calypso became the first full-length album to sell over 1 million copies. He is perhaps best known for singing the "Banana Boat Song," with its signature lyric "Day-O." He became the first Afrian American to win an Emmy for his 1959 TV special Tonight with Belafonte. He has starred in such groundbreaking films as "Carmen Jones" (1954), "Island in the Sun" (1957), "Buck and the Preacher"(1972), and "White Man's Burden" (1995). In 1987 he produced a Broadway play about apartheid entitled Asinamali!" Belafonte owns his own music publishing firm and a film production company.

Though born in Harlem, Harry's mother sent him to live in Jamaica, the island of her birth, when he was still a child. He returned to Harlem as a teenager at the outbreak of World War II. He found it difficult to adjust to life in states, dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Navy. After his honorable discharge, he worked as a laborer until he found his calling in the entertainment world. He started his career as an actor and studied his craft in the Dramatic Workshop of the School of Social Research. There his classmates included Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau, Rod Steiger and Tony Curtis.

In 2000, Belafonte won a Grammy Award for his lifetime achievement in music. In 2002 Africare awarded Belafonte the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award for his efforts to assist Africa. Additionally, the American Association of Retired People (AARP) named Belafonte one of nine recipients of 2006 Impact Award.