The King Center Mourns the Loss of Harry Belafonte

Atlanta, GA, April 25, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The King Center joins the world in mourning the loss of a great philanthropist, activist, singer, actor, and friend – Harry Belafonte.  We celebrate the life of one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s confidants and his extraordinary advocacy for political, civil rights, and humanitarian causes. 

As a demonstration of his deep compassion and conviction, Harry Belafonte was an ambassador for the American Civil Liberties Union and The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) for many decades. For his outstanding and consistent contributions to humanitarian causes, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was also President John F. Kennedy’s cultural advisor to the Peace Corps. 

Belafonte was a dedicated purveyor of civil rights for Black people in the United States. In 1963, Harry Belafonte immersed himself in The Birmingham Campaign, led by Dr. King and the SCLC, to ensure racial justice and desegregation in what Dr. King called one of the most segregated cities in America.  Harry Belafonte was an astute fundraiser often aiding during some of the Civil Rights Movement’s most crucial times.  Belafonte raised $50,000 to bail Dr. King and other civil rights protestors out of a Birmingham Jail and later helped organize entertainers such as Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis, Josephine Baker, Lena Horne, Paul Newman, and others to support and attend the 1963 March on Washington.
Two years later, Harry Belafonte, accompanied by friend and fellow entertainer Tony Bennet, joined more than 20,000 protestors, including Dr. King, in the Selma to Montgomery March.  During a Selma March anniversary, the actors encouraged today’s entertainers to become more engaged in civil rights.   “Civil rights is a constant, it’s never of the past.  It’s with you all the time.  Every society, every millennium, every decade is going to need its vigilant watchers of the democratic process,” Belafonte once said. 

Belafonte was also one of Dr. King’s public relations strategists and even invited him on The Tonight Show when Belafonte was a guest host. After Dr. King was assassinated, Belafont chaired the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial Fund. His love and care extended beyond the United States and was reflected in one of the most well-known humanitarian acts. In 1985, Belafonte helped organize efforts to raise $63 million for aid in Africa through the release of the multi-Grammy-winning song, We Are The World. 

“As a child, I remember Harry Belafonte as a very compassionate man who loved my family.  He often paid for my and my siblings’ babysitter while my mother and father worked on various civil rights campaigns.  Harry Belafonte was on The King Center’s first Board of Directors and a 1982 recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize, The King Center’s highest award.  Though there were moments of disagreement, I realize and appreciate the love and concern that he had for my family.  I am especially touched by the way he inspired a new generation of entertainers to become engaged in social justice causes. Today, I can unequivocally say that the world is a better place because God blessed us with Harry Belafonte,” Dr. Bernice A. King, The King Center’s CEO said. “It is my sincere hope and prayer that love, joy, and unexplainable peace surround the Belafonte family during this difficult time,” she added. 


About The King Center

The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center) is a 501(c) (3) organization established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King. The King Center is the official living memorial and programmatic nonprofit organization committed to educating the world on the life, legacy, and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The King Center serves to inspire new generations to carry forward his unfinished work, strengthen causes and empower change-makers who are continuing his efforts today. The King Center’s premiere educational initiative, Nonviolence365®, is based on Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and methodology. His teachings engage participants from various sectors of society, including emerging and next-generation leaders, in modules and exercises that enhance communication, leadership, interpersonal, and conflict reconciliation skills, as well as empower individuals to address injustice.

CONTACT: Momina Bryant The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change 404-437-1206 [email protected] 

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