Harry Belafonte, singer-actor and activist trailblazer, has passed away

New York, New York - Jamaican-American singer-songwriter, activist, and actor Harry Belafonte has died at the age of 96.

Legendary actor and activist Harry Belafonte has passed away at the age of 96.
Legendary actor and activist Harry Belafonte has passed away at the age of 96.  © JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP

On Tuesday morning, reps for the veteran entertainer confirmed to People that Belafonte died "of congestive heart failure at his New York home at the age of 96, his wife Pamela Frank by his side."

The award-winning entertainer fueled an international calypso craze in the 1950s with his version of the Banana Boat song, while his long career in show business paralleled his off-stage role as a civil rights activist and globe-trotting humanitarian.

In 1954, he became the first Black man to win a Tony Award for best featured actor in a musical for his performance in the Broadway revue, John Murray Anderson's Almanac.

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Following the release of his first album in 1954, Belafonte expanded his musical talents to the silver screen, breaking racial barriers in critically acclaimed hits like Carmen Jones, which co-starred the late actor, Dorothy Dandridge.

Harry Belafonte leaves behind decades-long legacy

In addition to his commercial success, the Odds Against Tomorrow star was a trailblazer, and became the first Black person to host a late-night TV show when he assumed hosting duties of The Tonight Show amid national civil rights protests, welcoming guests like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy.

Twice divorced, Belafonte had four children, Adrienne and Shari with his first wife, Marguerite; and David and Gina with his second wife, Julie.

He is also survived by his wife, Pamela Frank, and eight grandchildren.

Cover photo: JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP

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