Death of Harry Belafonte: Legendary singer, civil rights activist died at the age of 96 in his New York home

NEW YORK — Legendary singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte has died aged 96.

Also an actor, producer and EGOT winner, Belafonte died Tuesday morning of congestive heart failure at his New York home with his wife by his side.

With his radiant, handsome face and silky husky voice, Belafonte was one of the first black artists to gain a massive following in film and sell a million records as a singer; many still know him for his signature song “Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” and his cry “Day-O! Daaaay-O.” But he forged an even bigger legacy once he whittled down his performing career in the 1960s and lived out his hero Paul Robeson's decree that artists were “gatekeepers of truth.”

The UNICEF Goodwill and Humanity Ambassador has said in various interviews throughout her life that she wants to be remembered for her work not only as an artist, but as a fighter for social justice.

She stands as a model and the epitome of celebrity activism. Little has kept pace with Belafonte's times and commitments and none of his status as a meeting point between Hollywood, Washington, and the civil rights movement.

Belafonte became an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement and was a confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..

She supports countless political and social causes and events, including the anti-apartheid movement, equal rights for women, juvenile justice, climate change, and the decolonization of Africa.

He was one of the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington and led a delegation of notable Hollywood figures including his best friend Sidney Poitier, as well as Paul Newman, Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlon Brando, Rita Moreno, Tony Curtis, James Baldwin, Burt Lancaster, Joanne Woodward, Diahann Carroll , Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul and Mary and Joan Baez, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis and Tony Curtis.

Belafonte has been a major artist since the 1950s. He won a Tony Award in 1954 for his starring role in John Murray Anderson's “Almanac” and five years later became the first black performer to win an Emmy for the TV special “Tonight with Harry Belafonte”.

In 1954, he co-starred with Dorothy Dandridge in Otto Preminger's musical “Carmen Jones”, a popular breakthrough for the all-black cast. The 1957 film “Island in the Sun” was banned in several Southern cities, where theater owners were threatened by the Ku Klux Klan over the film's interracial romance between Belafonte and Joan Fontaine.

His final honor was being inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in November 2022 when he received the Early Influence Award. This award is given to artists whose musical style and performance directly influenced, inspired, and developed rock music & roll and music that influences youth culture.

In addition to her children Adrienne Belafonte Biesemeyer, Shari Belafonte, Gina Belafonte, David Belafonte and two stepsons Sarah Frank and Lindsey Frank, she is survived by eight grandchildren: Rachel Blue Biesemeyer, Brian Biesemeyer, Maria Belafonte McCray, Sarafina Belafonte, Amadeus Belafonte, Mateo Frank , Olive Scanga, and Zoe Frank.

VIDEOS | Here And Now on February 24, 2019: Harry Belafonte Tribute

The Associated Press contributed to this report.