Harry Belafonte Biography
Harold George Belafonte, Jr. (born March 1, 1927 in Harlem, New York, United States) is a Jamaican-American musician, actor and social activist. One of the most successful American musicians in history, he was dubbed the "King of Calypso" for popularizing the Caribbean musical style in the 1950s. Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing the Banana Boat Song, with its signature lyric "Day-O". Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for civil rights and humanitarian causes. In recent years (as of 2006), he has been a vocal critic of the policies of the Bush administration.
From 1935 to 1939, he lived with his mother in the village of Aboukir in her native country of Jamaica. When he returned to New York he attended George Washington High School after which he joined the Navy and served during World War II. At the end of the 1940s, he took classes in acting along side Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Walter Matthau, and Sidney Poitier. He subsequently received a Tony Award for his participation in John Murray Anderson's Almanac.
Belafonte's success in the arts did not protect him from racial discrimination. As a result, he refused to perform in the South of the US from 1954 until 1961. In 1960, President John F. Kennedy named Belafonte as cultural advisor to the Peace Corps. Belafonte was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and one of Martin Luther King's confidants. During the McCarthy era he was blacklisted for his Civil Rights work. He bailed Martin Luther King out of the Birmingham City Jail and raised thousands of dollars to release other imprisoned Civil Rights protesters. He financed the Freedom Rides, supported voter-registration drives, and helped to organize the March on Washington in 1963.
Harry Belafonte is married to Julie Robinson-Belafonte. They have two children, David Belafonte and Gina Belafonte. Belafonte also has two children from a previous marriage, Shari Belafonte and Adrienne Biesemeyer.
His daughter, Shari Belafonte, is a photographer, model, singer and actress.
His older daughter, Adrienne Biesemeyer, is a child/family Licensed Professional Counselor and Executive Director of the Anir Foundation/Anir Experience which focuses on humanitarian work in Southern Africa.