Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte

Multi-talented actor and musician Harry Belafonte was the first black performer to win an Emmy Award and the first recording artist to sell over a million copies of an album, though he was doubtlessly most proud of his longstanding work as an activist in international fights against racism, violence and world hunger. Belafonte got his start in New York theater, but his sideline as a nightclub singer propelled his mainstream breakout when his 1954 album Calypso popularized the music of his Jamaican heritage and hit number one on the charts. A respected authority on international folk music and a world-touring performer, Belafonte also enjoyed a career as an actor and producer, where he was involved in important early African-American productions including "Carmen Jones" (1954), in which he starred alongside Dorothy Dandridge, and Lorraine Hansberry's landmark play "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black," which he produced. Whatever the nature of the work, Belafonte's style remained solid - the casual friendliness and warm, jaunty humor were sincere; the fierceness and intensity often surprising.