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Harry  Belafonte

Harry Belafonte

Civil Rights Icon, Actor & Entertainer


Harry Belafonte has enjoyed an inordinately successful life in the performing arts. His RCA album “Calypso” made him the first artist in history to sell more than 1 million LPs. His first Broadway appearance in John Murrary Anderson’s “Almanac” earned him the coveted Tony Award. As the first black producer in television, he won an Emmy for his CBS production of “Tonight with Belafonte.” At the dawning of his film career, Carmen Jones took top critical honors and attracted Oscar nominations. Read More >

His many firsts in the overturning of racial barriers in the world of American culture is legend. Belafonte met a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his historic visit to New York in the early 1950s. Belafonte and King developed a deep and abiding friendship that for Belafonte still stands as one of the most precious of his experiences.

Belafonte’s commitment to social justice has been ceaseless. Disturbed by cruel events unfolding in Africa due to war, drought, and famine, Belafonte set in motion the wheels that led to “We Are the World” on January 28, 1985. He contacted manager Ken Kragen, and they, along with others, guided and directed the project known as USA for Africa. Belafonte played a prominent role in ending the oppressive apartheid government of South Africa and his efforts contributed to the release of his friend Nelson Mandela after more than 27 years of incarceration.

In 1987, Belafonte was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, making him the second American to hold this title. He penned his memoir My Song, which was released in October 2011 along with the critically acclaimed HBO documentary Sing Your Song. Directed by Susanne Rostock, the film chronicles the life and times of one of America’s most groundbreaking entertainers and social activists through his own words, eye-witness accounts, FBI files and archival footage.

Belafonte has been honored by such diverse groups as the American Jewish Congress, the NAACP, the City of Hope, Fight for Sight, The Urban League, The National Conference of Black Mayors, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the ACLU, the State Department, the Boy Scouts of America, Hadassah International and the Peace Corps. He has received The Albert Einstein Award from Yeshiva University, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize, the Acorn Award from the Bronx Community College for his work with children, and, in 1989, he received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors for excellence in the performing arts.

He was the first recipient of the Nelson Mandela Courage Award and was honored at the White House with the 1994 National Medal of Arts from President Clinton for his contributions to our nation's cultural life. He has received honorary degrees from City University of New York, Spellman College in Atlanta, Tufts University, Brandeis University, Long Island University, Bard College and most recently Doctor of Humane Letters from Columbia University and many others. And he is the 2013 recipient of the Spingarn Medal, the most prestigious award bestowed by the NAACP. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

An Evening with Harry Belafonte