Harry Belafonte, singer and civil rights activist, RIP

Harry Belafonte, Calypso/pop superstar and influential civil rights activist, has died. He was 96. Belafonte was born in 1927 in Harlem, New York to parents who had immigrated from Jamaica. After spending his early teen years in Jamaica, Belafonte returned to New York and pursued acting with his friend Sidney Poltier. Performing as a club singer to fund his acting classes, Belafonte signed a recording contract in 1953 and quickly skyrocketed to stardom with his album classic album Calypso. Considered the first million copy-seller by a solo artist, the album featured his signature songs "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" and "Jamaica Farewell." From the New York Times:

Early in his career, he befriended the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and became not just a lifelong friend but also an ardent supporter of Dr. King and the quest for racial equality he personified. He put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

He provided money to bail Dr. King and other civil rights activists out of jail. He took part in the March on Washington in 1963. His spacious apartment on West End Avenue in Manhattan became Dr. King's home away from home. And he quietly maintained an insurance policy on Dr. King's life, with the King family as the beneficiary, and donated his own money to make sure that the family was taken care of after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968[…]

He remained politically active to the end. On Election Day 2016, The Times published an opinion article by Mr. Belafonte urging people not to vote for Donald J. Trump, whom he called "feckless and immature."

"Mr. Trump asks us what we have to lose," he wrote, referring to African American voters, "and we must answer: Only the dream, only everything."

Harry Belafonte image: Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock