Legendary Hollywood singer and actor Harry Belafonte will be presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award voted by the Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences on Saturday, Nov. 8 at Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.
The Governors Honorary Award represents a lifetime achievement in arts and humanity, and will be presented to Claude Carriere, Hayao Miyazaki, Maureen O’Hara, as well as the incomparable Belafonte.
“The Governors Awards allow us to reflect upon not the year in film, but the achievements of a lifetime,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs reportedly said. “We’re absolutely thrilled to honor these outstanding members of our global filmmaking community and look forward to celebrating with them in November.
The legendary Hollywood singer and actor was born Harold George Bellanfanti, Jr. in Harlem, NY on March 1, 1927.
Belafonte’s parents Melvine and Harold George Bellanfanti Sr. were descendants of Jamaica.
Harold George Bellanfanti, Jr. adopted the stage Harry Belafonte, and began an early career as a calypso singer in several night clubs around New York city to pay for his acting classes.
Belafonte became nationally famous as a calypso singer with two signature songs “Mitilda” and “Banana Boat Song” (infamously known as the “Day-O” song).
Belafonte’s first million-selling album “Calypso” skyrocked to number four on Billboard’s “Top 100 Album” list.
Although Belafonte appeared in several Hollywood films, his most famous starring movie role was in Otto Premingers 1954 classic smash hit “Carmen Jones,” alongside late Hollywood great actress Dorothy Dandridge.
Belafonte also appeared in two films featured and directed by his best friend and native Jamaican Oscar Award winning legendary actor Sidney Poitier’s “Buck And The Preacher” and “Uptown Saturday Night.”
Although the Hollywood singer and actor was blacklisted as a communist sympathizer during the McCarthy era, Belafonte steadfastly became one of Hollywood’s famous civil rights activist.
Belafonte became a close confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and spearhead and organized Hollywood actors to participate in the non-violent Civil Rights Movement led by Noble Peace Prize winner Dr. King.
The list of famous Hollywood actors, writers and celebrities participating in the non-violent civil rights protest included: Marlon Brando, Charleston Heston, Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne, Diahann Carrol, Paul Newman, Joan Baez, James Baldwin and Bob Dylan.
Belafonte became instrumental in financing the “Freedom Rides,” voter registration drives and even bailed out Dr. King from the Birmingham City Jail.
Moreover, Belafonte raised thousands of dollars to help bailout other disfranchised civil rights protestors.
Belafonte helped organize the historical 1963 Civil Rights March On Washington, D.C., and became one of the featured speakers.
Belafonte became the defacto unsung Civil Rights Movement hero, and the well deserved Governors Honorary Award is akin to the Hollywood Civil Rights Activist Humanitarian Oscar Award.