Harry Belafonte – a legendary musician, actor and activist – has confirmed his attendance at Selma52 as we mark the anniversary of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March.
On March 1, Mr. Belafonte will turn 90. So let’s give Mr. Belafonte a warm, Birthday Welcome him to our city during Jubilee festivities! The full week of events run March 2-5.
To get you ready for Mr. Belafonte’s trip to Selma, check out five facts you may not know about his amazing man:
Free ticket to theater kickstarts acting, singing career
Belafonte’s career as an actor and singer started by coincidence. Working as a janitor’s assistant in Harlem, a tenant gave him two tickets to the American Negro Theater as gratuity.
“… it was there that the universe opened for me,” Belafonte told NPR in 2011".
Activism before Acting
In 2011, Belafonte told PBS, “I was an activist who became an artist.”
Belafonte: “What attracted me to the arts was the fact that I saw theater as a social force, as a politic
al force. I kind of felt that art was a powerful tool and that’s what I should be doing with mine.”
Acting to Albums
Belafonte was said to be the first solo singer to sell one million records of an album. And in 1958, he became one of the first African-Americans with his own television show.
Late-night talk show with Dr. King
Belafonte gave financial support to Dr. Martin Luther King and his family during the Civil Rights Movement.
Then on Feb. 8, 1968, Belafonte served as a guest host of Tonight (Johnny Carson was off that week). One of Belafonte’s guests? Dr. Martin Luther King, who in his rare clip, showcases a side of him missed in most history books: humor.
The show aired two months before King was assassinated in Memphis.
“Bonds, bail, rent…”
While Belafonte’s entertainment career aligned with white America, his politics did not. He was not only a confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, but a financial supporter of the Civil Rights Movement.
Belafonte recently told the New York Times, “I threw my lot in with him completely, put a fortune behind the movement. Whatever money I had saved went for bonds and bail and rent, money for guys to get in their car and go wherever. I was Daddy Warbucks.”
According to the Times, Belafonte helped organize the third march from Selma to Montgomery, recruiting entertainers like Joan Baez, Tony Bennett and Mahalia Jackson for a concert in Montgomery.