- Jan 18, 2000
Harry Belafonte, the dashing singer, actor and activist who became an indispensable supporter of the civil rights movement, has died, his publicist Ken Sunshine told CNN. He was 96.
Belafonte died Tuesday morning of congestive heart failure, Sunshine said.
Belafonte was dubbed the “King of Calypso” after the groundbreaking success of his 1956 hit, “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O).” He also became a movie star after acting in the film adaption of the Broadway musical, “Carmen Jones.”
But Belafonte biggest contributions took place offstage. He was a key strategist, fundraiser and mediator for the civil rights movement. He continually risked his entertainment career – and at least once his life – for his activism. He became a close friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who often retired to Belafonte’s palatial New York apartment to talk strategy or escape the pressures of leading the civil rights movement.