Before there was Michael B. Jordan or Jonathan Majors, there were men like Harry Belafonte and Billy Dee Williams.
What is the common denominator here? Regardless of generational differences, all these men were considered the “it guys” of the industry. From their on-screen performances to their ability to swoon their admirers, fans from all over were consistently captivated by the very presence of these individuals.
Belafonte was one of the pioneers of this movement for Black men, and many aunties and grandmothers across the globe would tend to agree. However, Belafonte was much more than his looks and charisma.
A Harlem native, Belafonte is of Jamaican descent. After facing trouble in school, he served in the Navy during World War II. Upon returning to the states post-service, he attended a theatrical performance at the American Negro Theater. According to Turner Classic Movies, that moment snatched his interest, and he began seriously pursuing acting.
He enrolled in acting classes at the New School for Social Research and used his singing prowess to fund and advance his passion for building what was now a dream career. Quickly rising in Harlem’s creative atmosphere, Belafonte landed a role in the American Negro Theater’s production of Sean O’Casey’s “Juno and the Paycock.”
This moment spurred a series of opportunities for Belafonte that allowed him to expand beyond the stage. He was able to land movie and television roles, release music, and leverage his celebrity to advocate for social justice and equity.
There is no doubt that the 96-year-old has lived an iconic life, and according to Celebrity Net Worth, he was able to amass a $30 million fortune through his career.
With such a strong history and robust resume, let’s look at the life and legacy of Harry Belafonte and his impact on the entertainment industry.
Belafonte has been a visible example not only for the viewing world but has inspired his children to work in the industry as well. Three of his four children followed in their father’s footsteps and worked in entertainment.
According to Hollywood Life, two of his daughters, Shari and Gina, and his son, David, dabbled in entertainment working as singers, actors, and production executives. His oldest daughter Adrienne, however, chose a different path and works as a counselor.
Television And Film
Belafonte has several acting and producer credits that span over seven decades. He starred in films and television shows such as “BlacKkKlansman,” “Uptown Saturday Night,” and the classic hit “Carmen Jones” alongside Dorothy Dandridge.
His acting chops landed him in a historic spot. In 1960, he became the first Black person to win an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series for “Tonight with Belafonte.”
Music And Song
He sang in clubs and lounges to pay for acting classes and earn money early in his career. Those singing skills did not end there. Belafonte continued performing as a singer in various shows and recording several albums, including “Homeward Bound” and “Calypso Carnival.”
He was nominated for 11 Grammy Awards and has won two.
Activism And Social Justice
Belafonte was on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, organizing protests and movements. He was also known as one of the closest confidants of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
According to the National Park Service, Belafonte, who was very active in philanthropy, helped orchestrate the recording of “We Are The World,” a musical effort that raised funds for Africa. He was also appointed global ambassador for United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund in 1987.