Harry Belafonte -- entertainer & social activist
Harry Belafonte, entertainer and social activist!
*Harry Belafonte was
born on this date in 1927.
He is an entertainer and social
activist of Mixed-Race color lineage
From New York City, Harold George
Belafonte�s parents were from the Caribbean.
His father, Harold George Belafonte,
Sr., was from Martinique and was
a cook in the British Navy.
His mother, Malvine Belafonte,
was from Jamaica.
She worked as a housekeeper and dressmaker.
When Belafonte was eight years old,
his mother sent his brother Dennis and
him to boarding school in Jamaica.
He stayed there until high school, when
the family moved back to New York City.
Belafonte attended George Washington High
School where he was on the track team.
He dropped out of school at age seventeen
and joined the United States Navy.
In 1945, after the service, he returned to New
York City and was a maintenance worker.
As a tip, someone gave him tickets to a play.
Belafonte was fascinated by the theater.
He began volunteering as a stagehand
with the "American Negro Theater (ANT)",
and decided he wanted to be an actor.
Belafonte studied acting and performed with the ANT.
He landed a singing role in a play,
and his audience discovered his
great singing voice.
At about the same time, he began
to find meaning in folk music.
On weekends he�d go to Washington, D.C., where
he studied African-American based folk music
from the collections at the Library of Congress.
Belafonte also studied music from the Caribbean.
Singing at New York�s Village Vanguard led
to his album "Calypso"; the first album (of
its kind) ever to sell over a million copies.
It started a calypso music
craze in the United States.
Belafonte made a number of other successful
recordings, as his acting career began to take off.
In 1954, he got a role in the movie "Carmen
Jones" where the entire cast was of
at least some part-Black ancestry.
Belafonte also produced movies and shows;
he became the first television producer of
any part-Black ancestry and also won an "Emmy
Award" for his show "Tonight with Harry Belafonte".
He wanted his work to promote both
racial equality and racial harmony.
He won a "Tony Award" in 1954 for
John Murray Anderson�s "Almanac".
Belafonte�s films acting credits include:
"Island in the Sun" in 1957,
"Odds Against Tomorrow" in 1959,
"Buck and the Preacher" in 1972,
"Uptown Saturday Night" in 1974,
and "Kansas City" in 1996.
When Belafonte began his career, life was hard for
entertainers who were of part-Black ancestry.
They worked in the theaters and hotels
and paid well for their vocation.
But segregation meant that people whose lineage
contained any amount of known or acknowledged
Black-ancestry, did not have equal access or rights
to the same services and conditions are others.
Racist conditions incited Belafonte to play a
continuous role in getting racial barriers removed.
In the 1960s, he was involved in the
Civil Rights Movement and he has
helped many people all over the world.
In 1985, he produced and sang
the Grammy-winning song
entitled "We Are the World".
Proceeds from the song were used to benefit
the people of Ethiopia who were going
through a severe famine at the time.
Two years later, he became the
goodwill ambassador for "UNICEF,
the United Nations Children�s Fund".
In 1988, the Peace Corps gave
him its Leader for Peace Award.
Twenty percent of his income goes to the
Belafonte Foundation of Music and Art,
which assists young people of any part-Black
lineage in their studies for careers in the arts.
He also heads a group called
the Urban Peace Movement.
Belafonte produced a five-CD set called "The Long
Road to Freedom": An Anthology of black music.
He received the "National Medal of the
Arts" in 1994 and the "Grammy Award
for Lifetime Achievement" in 2000.