Harry Belafonte


Easton Press Harry Belafonte books

My Song - Signed First Edition - 2011

 

Who is Harry Belafonte?

Born on March 1, 1927, in Harlem, New York, Harold George Belafonte Jr., better known as Harry Belafonte, has etched his name in history as a legendary entertainer, actor, and passionate civil rights activist. His life's journey, marked by artistic brilliance and unwavering commitment to social justice, has made him a cultural icon of the 20th century. Belafonte's early years were shaped by the challenges of a difficult childhood. Raised by his mother in poverty, he encountered racism and discrimination firsthand. Despite the adversities, he found solace in music and drama, igniting a passion that would become the driving force behind his future success.

Harry Belafonte's breakthrough in the entertainment industry came with the release of his album Calypso (1956), which became the first album to sell over a million copies. The infectious rhythm of Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) from the album catapulted Belafonte to international stardom. His charismatic stage presence and ability to fuse various musical genres, including calypso and folk, made him a beloved and influential figure in the world of music. Beyond his musical achievements, Belafonte transitioned into acting and became the first African American to win an Emmy Award for his television special, An Evening with Belafonte (1959). He further solidified his acting prowess with notable performances in films such as Carmen Jones (1954) and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).


Yet, it is Harry Belafonte's enduring commitment to civil rights and social justice that distinguishes him as a cultural luminary. A close friend and confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Belafonte played a vital role in the civil rights movement. He used his fame and influence to advocate for racial equality, participating in key events such as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Belafonte's activism extended beyond American borders. He was involved in numerous humanitarian efforts and spoke out against apartheid in South Africa. His commitment to global justice earned him the UNICEF's Humanitarian Award and the Albert Einstein Award from Yeshiva University.

Harry Belafonte jump in the line

Jump in the Line is a song performed by Harry Belafonte. It gained popularity in the 1988 film Beetlejuice, directed by Tim Burton, where the song is featured in a memorable dance scene. The song itself is lively and upbeat, with a Caribbean influence.



In addition to his artistic and advocacy work, Belafonte continued to be a voice for change through the decades. His autobiography, My Song: A Memoir (2011), provides a compelling narrative of his life, intertwining personal experiences with his unwavering dedication to social justice causes. As an artist, actor, and activist, Harry Belafonte's impact on American culture and the global struggle for civil rights remains immeasurable. His enduring legacy serves as an inspiration for future generations, illustrating the transformative power of art and the indomitable spirit of those who use their platforms to advocate for a more just and equitable world.

 

My Song - A Memoir

Harry Belafonte is not just one of the greatest entertainers of our time; he has led one of the great American lives of the last century. Now, this extraordinary icon tells us the story of that life, giving us its full breadth, letting us share in the struggles, the tragedies, and, most of all, the inspiring triumphs.
 
Belafonte grew up, poverty-ridden, in Harlem and Jamaica. His mother was a complex woman caring but withdrawn, eternally angry and rarely satisfied. His father was distant and physically abusive. It was not an easy life, but it instilled in young Harry the hard-nosed toughness of the city and the resilient spirit of the Caribbean lifestyle. It also gave him the drive to make good and channel his anger into actions that were positive and life-affirming. His journey led to the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he encountered an onslaught of racism but also fell in love with the woman he eventually married. After the war he moved back to Harlem, where he drifted between odd jobs until he saw his first stage play and found the life he wanted to lead. Theater opened up a whole new world, one that was artistic and political and made him realize that not only did he have a need to express himself, he had a lot to express.
 
He began as an actor and has always thought of himself as such but was quickly spotted in a musical, began a tentative nightclub career, and soon was on a meteoric rise to become one of the world’s most popular singers. Belafonte was never content to simply be an entertainer, however. Even at enormous personal cost, he could not shy away from activism. At first it was a question of personal dignity: breaking down racial barriers that had never been broken before, achieving an enduring popularity with both white and black audiences. Then his activism broadened to a lifelong, passionate involvement at the heart of the civil rights movement and countless other political and social causes. The sections on the rise of the civil rights movement are perhaps the most moving in the book: his close friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr.; his role as a conduit between Dr. King and the Kennedys; his up-close involvement with the demonstrations and awareness of the hatred and potential violence around him; his devastation at Dr. King’s death and his continuing fight for what he believes is right.
 
But My Song is far more than the history of a movement. It is a very personal look at the people in that movement and the world in which Belafonte has long moved. He has befriended many beloved and important figures in both entertainment and politics Paul Robeson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sidney Poitier, John F. Kennedy, Marlon Brando, Robert Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Tony Bennett, Bill Clinton and writes about them with the same exceptional candor with which he reveals himself on every page. This is a book that pulls no punches, and turns both a loving and critical eye on our country’s cultural past.
 
As both an artist and an activist, Belafonte has touched countless lives. With My Song, he has found yet another way to entertain and inspire us. It is an electrifying memoir from a remarkable man.



Harry Belafonte quotes

"Bring it on. Dissent is central to any democracy."
"The pursuit of justice is all I have ever known."
"Art in its highest form is art that serves and instructs society and human development."
"You can cage the singer but not the song."
"Fascism is fascism. Terrorism is terrorism. Oppression is oppression."
"These children and their parents know that getting an education is not only their right, but a passport to a better future for the children and for the country."


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