We remember the remarkable life of Harry Belafonte, the pioneering actor, singer and civil rights activist, who died at his home on Tuesday in New York at the age of 96. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Belafonte rose to stardom in the 1950s and became the first artist to sell a million records with his album Calypso. He was also the first African American actor to win an Emmy. Along with his growing fame, Belafonte became deeply involved in the civil rights movement. One of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest confidants, he helped to organize the March on Washington in 1963 and frequently raised money to bail activists out of jail and fund their activities throughout the South. Belafonte was also a longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy, calling for an end to the embargo against Cuba, supporting the anti-apartheid movement and opposing policies of war and global oppression. He spoke out against the U.S. invasion of Iraq and once called George W. Bush the “greatest terrorist in the world.” Harry Belafonte appeared on Democracy Now! numerous times over the years. In 2011, we spoke to him upon the premiere of Sing Your Song, a documentary about his life, and we begin our special by featuring an extended excerpt from our interview. “Going into the South of the United States, listening to the voices of rural Black America, listening to the voices of those who sang out against the Ku Klux Klan and out against segregation, and women, who were the most oppressed of all, rising to the occasion to protest against their conditions, became the arena where my first songs were to emerge,” Belafonte recalled.
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