Celebrities And Activists React To The Passing Of The Legendary Harry Belafonte

The icon passed away at 96 years old.

We have lost a giant. The legendary actor, singer and activist Harry Belafonte passed away at 96 years old. According to the New York Times, he died the morning of April 25 in Manhattan due to congestive heart failure. 

Belafonte was a superstar before the word existed.  Born in  1927 in Harlem, New York, he became a household name with songs like "The Banana Boat Song" and "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)," which became staples of the calypso genre. He also appeared in several notable films, including 1954's Carmen Jones and 1957's Island in the Sun. He was the first Black actor to win an Emmy Award, for his performance in the television special An Evening with Belafonte in 1959.

Related: Harry Belafonte, 96, Dies; Barrier-Breaking Singer, Actor and Activist

By the 1960s, he became a tireless activist for civil rights and social justice. He was a close friend and confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and helped to organize the historic March on Washington in 1963. Belafonte was a prominent advocate for humanitarian causes, including fighting against poverty, promoting international human rights and better conditions for the incarcerated.  As recent as last year, he was speaking out against bans on books and Black history, telling, "You can ban the lesson plan — and across the country, we see that they are doing just that — but you can’t stop the impact of that knowledge from taking root in the minds of young people."

Overall, Harry Belafonte has had a profound cultural impact as a musician, activist, and actor. He has used his platform to promote social justice and human rights, and his legacy continues to inspire and influence people around the world. He his being mourned and celebrated by public figures from every walk of life. As Pulitzer Prize-winning Nikole Hannah-Jones tweeted, "We have lost a giant."

See the reactions below.

  • Watch BET’s “Harry Belafonte: In His Own Word” airing on April 25 at 6:00 PM ET/PT on BET.

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, you confirm that you have read and agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications, updates, special offers (including partner offers) and other information from BET and the Paramount family of companies. You understand that you can unsubscribe at any time.