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Harry Belafonte, 93, Is a Handsome Actor & Singer — Quick Facts about His Life and Legacy

Junie Sihlangu
Dec 05, 2020
09:20 P.M.
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Harry Belafonte is not only an award-winning actor and singer, but he’s also a civil rights activist. In the article below, we get a glimpse into his life and the legacy that he will leave behind.

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Harry Belafonte was born as Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. on March 1, 1927, in Harlem, New York. In 2020, the star has already turned 93 years old and is seven years shy of becoming a centenarian.

His father was Harold George Bellanfanti and he worked as a cook while the star’s mother was a domestic worker named Melvine Bellanfanti. Both of his parents were Jamaican immigrants and he spent part of his childhood in the country.

Harry Belafonte receives The Lifetime Achievement Award during the Jefferson Awards Foundation NYC National Ceremony on March 15, 2017, in New York City | Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Harry Belafonte receives The Lifetime Achievement Award during the Jefferson Awards Foundation NYC National Ceremony on March 15, 2017, in New York City | Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

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He served in the US Navy from 1943 until 1945 after a learning disability led to him leaving high-school. In his life he’s been married three times, starting with his first wife Marguerite Byrd whom he wed on June 18, 1948.

The pair ended their marriage in divorce on February 28, 1957. Belafonte then got married to his second wife Julie Robinson from March 1957 until they divorced on an undisclosed date.

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His current and final wife is Pamela Frank whom he tied the knot with in April 2008. The star’s children are Gina and David, whom he had with Robinson and Shari and Adrienne with Byrd.

In his lifetime, the singer has been nominated eleven times for a Grammy Award. He’s only managed to win two of those nominations, but he had many other accolades to his name.

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They include the President's Merit Award and the prestigious Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award. Belafonte has also been nominated five times for the Primetime Emmy Awards, with one win.

The win made him the first US African American citizen to ever win an Emmy Award. He was nominated for and won a Tony Award, and he has one honorary Academy Award.

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In 1963, the star helped to get a group of celebrities to attend the march on Washington. One of his mentors was fellow entertainer Paul Robeson who urged an audience to join in singing songs with him.

Belafonte made his cinematic debut in the 1953 drama “Bright Road.” With regard to his music, in 1956 he made history when Calypso (his third studio album) sold more than one million copies.

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The star’s LP included the hit songs "Day-O (Banana Boat Song)" and "Jamaica Farewell." Belafonte also became the first African-American television producer when he worked on the 1960's “Tonight with Harry Belafonte.”

His show earned him an Emmy Award. In March 1987, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) appointed him as their Goodwill Ambassador and in his later years, he was given other accolades.

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The actor was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1989. In 1994 he got the National Medal of the Arts and in 2006 the musician was gifted with the BET Humanitarian Award.

Belafonte, who has since retired, became ill in October 2015 before he was set to be the guest of honor at the Brooklyn Annual Benefit Gala in New York City. He ended up accepting the honor via speakerphone revealing he’d suffered a seizure.

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