Beloved activist, entertainer Harry Belafonte’s legacy remembered in Memphis

Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 5:55 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Harry Belafonte, a barrier-breaking singer, actor and activist died Tuesday at the age of 96 surrounded by loved ones at his New York home.

Belafonte was one of the first Black performers to gain fame from acting and singing. He also became a civil rights leader, having been honored for his activism in Memphis.

He worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, often intervening on his behalf with politicians and entertainers. He was also honored as the 1999 Freedom Award Honoree at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Belafonte was closely tied to the King family as he ensured that their safety and well-being were secured after King was killed in Memphis.

Following King’s death, Belafonte never lost his fire but instead used it to continue the legacy.

Friends and family, including Coretta Scott King, Harry Belafonte Jr., and Jesse Jackson,...
Friends and family, including Coretta Scott King, Harry Belafonte Jr., and Jesse Jackson, holding hands at Martin Luther King Jr. funeral services in Memphis, Tenn., 1968. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History.(Action News 5)

“It pushed him forward... and you could see it in his advocacy,” said Dr. Noelle Trent, National Civil Rights Museum director of Interpretation, Collections, and Education.

Belafonte was often present during protests and marches, supporting benefit concerts but also helping to organize and raise money.

Knowing what this kind of statement it would make, he risked his career regardless, not allowing fear to stop him from living his life with “no regrets.”

Now, millions across the country remember Harry Belafonte.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday, “The world lost a true one-of-a-kind today. We will always cherish his memory and celebrate his amazing incredible accomplishments.”

May he rest in powerful peace.

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