Harry Belafonte: an actor, singer, and activist

“You can cage the singer but not the song.” – Harry Belafonte

Brief Biography

In the early 1950s, Belafonte studied traditional folk songs and began performing at the Village Vanguard and other New York City Clubs. Harry Belafonte’s singing career initially took off after he starred in Carmen Jones, an American musical film released in 1954, where he starred with Dorthy Dandridge. Soon after Belafonte came out with hits like The Banana Boat Song and Jump in the Line.


Although Harry Belafonte is known for Carmen Jones, he has starred in at least twelve different films. Harry Belafonte debuted his acting career on Broadway for John Murray Anderson’s Almanac and Carmen Jones. In the 1970s, Belafonte debuted his music on popular television shows and made various guest appearances. His final major picture films were The Player (1992), White Man’s Burden (1995), Kansas City (1996), Swing Vote (1999), and Bobby (2006).


Harry Belafonte’s acting career helped propel his success in the music industry. Harry Belafonte released Calypso in 1956. The album included his take on traditional Caribbean folk music. In The Banana Boat Song, he paid tribute to his home, Jamacia, and his relatives.

Harry Belafonte is one of the most well-known African-American folk singers. His Album, Calypso, became the first album to sell 1 million copies. Harry Belafonte is an influential artist. He brought Caribbean melodies and Latin American rhythms to the folk music scene. Thus, Influencing generations of folk music.


In the 1950s Harry Belafonte met Martin Luther King Jr. and became friends with him. Belafonte took part in organizing the 1963 March on Washington and participated in multiple protests and activism rallies. Later on, he began providing financial assistance to civil rights committees and leaders. As well as, becoming an ambassador for UNICEF.


  • Kennedy Center Honors (1989)
  • National Medal of Arts (1994)
  • Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2000)
  • Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (2004)

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