Legendary Crooner and Civil Rights Activist Harry Belafonte Dies at 96

Harry Belafonte is best known for crooning songs like Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), Jump In the Line, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Jamaica Farewell, and so many more.

Sadly, new reports have revealed that at 96 years old, the barrier-breaking performer has passed away. According to The New York Times, Belafonte died in his home on the Upper West Side on Tuesday morning, April 25.

According to his longtime spokesperson Ken Sunshine, Belafonte died of congestive heart failure. 

As The Times reports, Belafonte, who was born and raised in the Bronx, became a household name in the 1950s when segregation still plagued the United States. His rise to fame in show business and the music industry during that time was and still is considered historic.

His name will forever be intertwined with his legendary counterparts such as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, who also battled racism and segregation as they climbed their way to the top.

According to The New York Times, Belafonte’s Calypso is believed to be the first album by a single artist to ever sell more than one million copies. And by 1959, he was one of the most sought-after and highest paid Black performer.

He would later go on to become one of the most recognizable faces on the movie screen as well. Which contributed to his friendship with Sidney Poitier who passed away just last year.

Belafonte was also a driving force in the civil rights movement. Belafonte was a friend and staunch supporter of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

The Times reports that Belafonte funded “much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”

He also used his money to bail Dr. King and other activists out of jail during that time.