American singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte died at his home in New York on Tuesday, The New York Times reported. He was 96. Ken Sunshine, his spokesperson, said that Belafonte suffered a congestive heart failure.
Born in 1927 in Harlem, Belafonte was one of the first Black singers to gain a wide following and sell a million records, according to the Associated Press. He was known for many signature hits such as Banana Boat (Day-O), Jamaica Farewell among others.
Besides music, Belafonte was a key strategist, fundraiser and mediator in the American civil rights movement in the 1950s. He worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr and also led a campaign against apartheid in South Africa, according to CNN.
“I was having almost daily talks with Martin,” Belafonte wrote in his memoir “My Song,” published in 2011, according to AP. “I realized that the movement was more important than anything else.”
In 2014, Belafonte was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his lifelong fight for civil rights and other causes, reported The New York Times.
On Tuesday, several social media users expressed their condolence on Belafonte’s death.