Harry Belafonte: iconic singer, actor and civil rights activist dies aged 96 - cause of death explained

Singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte has died at the age of 95. (Credit: Getty images)Singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte has died at the age of 95. (Credit: Getty images)
Singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte has died at the age of 95. (Credit: Getty images) | Getty Images
The entertainer was known for not only his chart-topping songs and appearances on screen, but for his work to progress the civil rights movement in the US

The groundbreaking singer, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte has died at the age of 96, a spokesman has confirmed.

Belafonte died in his Manhattan home after suffering from congestive heart failure. He was an icon of the 1950s and broke barriers for black Americans in the entertainment industry.

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Throughout his career, Belafonte championed his Caribbean roots in his music, with the Jamaican-inspired 1954 album Calypso becoming the world's first million-selling LP. His biggest hits included 'The Banana Boat Song' and 'Jump in the Line', which helped to popularise Caribbean-influenced music in the US.

He was awarded three Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award and a Tony for his work onstage and screen. In one of his most recent appearances on screen, he was seen in Spike Lee's 2018 film BlacKkKlansman schooling young activists about the country’s past.

Belafonte was a close confidante of Martin Luther King Jr and became heavily involved in the civil rights movement in the US throughout the 1950s and 60s. As well as taking part in rallies, he bankrolled many and organised his own events in order to increase the profile of civil rights issue at a time when racial segregation was widespread in the US.

He continued his activism work until his death, and supported campaigns against issues such as the apartheid in South Africa and HIV/AIDS in Africa.

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Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare F President. “Belafonte leveraged his considerable and deserved celebrity for a myriad of causes over his lifetime, including the fight against HIV and AIDS. It was both humbling and a privilege for AHF to thank and honor him in person for his lifetime of activism and compassion.”

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