Skip to Content

Harry Belafonte Fast Facts


Here is a look at the life of Harry Belafonte, civil rights activist and award-winning singer and actor.


Birth date: March 1, 1927

Birth place: New York, New York

Birth name: Harold George Bellanfanti Jr.

Father: Harold George Bellanfanti, cook

Mother: Melvine (Love) Bellanfanti, domestic worker

Marriages: Pamela Frank (April 2008-present); Julie Robinson (March 1957-unavailable publicly, divorced); Marguerite Byrd (June 18, 1948-February 28, 1957, divorced)

Children: with Julie Robinson: Gina and David; with Marguerite Byrd: Shari and Adrienne

Military service: US Navy, 1943-1945

Other Facts

Nominated for 11 Grammy Awards and won two. Also received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the President’s Merit Award.

Nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards and won one.

Won one Tony Award.

Won one honorary Academy Award.

His parents were Jamaican immigrants.

First African American to ever win an Emmy Award.

Organized a contingent of celebrities to attend the 1963 March on Washington.


1946 – Has the lead role in “Days of Our Youth” at Harlem’s American Negro Theater. His understudy is Sidney Poitier.

April 17, 1953 – His first feature film, “Bright Road,” opens.

March 1954 – Wins a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Featured Role – Musical for “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac.”

June 20, 1960 – Wins an Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series for “Revlon Revue: Tonight with Belafonte.”

April 13, 1961 – Wins a Grammy for Best Performance in Folk for “Swing Dat Hammer.”

March 15, 1966 – Wins a Grammy for Best Folk Recording for “An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba,” shared with Miriam Makeba.

1986 – Recieves the Grammy’s Presidential Merit Award for his “significant and meaningful contributions to the recorded arts and musical culture.”

1987-present UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

1989 – Receives the Kennedy Center Honors.

1994 – Receives the National Medal of the Arts from US President Bill Clinton.

1996-1997 – Is successfully treated for prostate cancer.

February 23, 2000 – Is presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 42nd Academy Awards.

October 15, 2002 – On CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Belafonte compares Secretary of State Colin Powell to a plantation house slave for his role in the George W. Bush administration. “Colin Powell was permitted to come into the house of the master.”

January 8, 2006 – CNN reports that Belafonte called President Bush the “greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world,” while talking to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez live on the radio in Caracas, Venezuela.

December 2008 – Belafonte tries to sell three documents through a Sotheby’s auction that he claims were given to him by Martin Luther King Jr. or his aides and widow. The King estate stops the sale, alleging the documents do not belong to Belafonte. In 2013, Belafonte sues the King estate to establish ownership of the documents. In 2014, Belafonte and King’s estate announce that they have settled the case and Belafonte retains possession of the documents.

May 15, 2010 – Along with Willie Mays and Billie Jean King, Belafonte is honored with Major League Baseball’s Beacon Award in “recognition for their lifetime efforts in the area of civil rights.”

January 20, 2011 – “Sing Your Song,” a documentary of Belafonte’s musical career and civil rights activism, premieres at the Sundance Film Festival.

October 2011 – “My Song: A Memoir” is published and Belafonte’s album, “Sing Your Song: The Music” is released.

October 10, 2012 – Half-brother Raymond Wright sues Belafonte for libel, slander and invasion of privacy over his book, “My Song: A Memoir,” in the Southern District Court of New York.

2013 – Founds Sankofa, a social justice organization.

March 31, 2014 – The libel case filed by his half-brother is dismissed by the court.

November 8, 2014 – Is presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

January 21, 2017 – Is named an honorary co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington along with Gloria Steinem.

April 4, 2019 – Belafonte and Tony Bennett are honored for their music and activism during a gala at the Apollo Theater in New York hosted by the Jazz Foundation of America. Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the featured speakers.

Article Topic Follows: National & World

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content