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Some time ago I had to write a paper on various black people and their influence on the racial equality movement. After my rant yesterday regarding the lack of respect for black history month I decided to search out my papers until I finally found it. Now this isn't the full paper, this is just a few excerpts and summaries from it but it will at least help to educate somebody (I hope). I chose Belafonte because he is part Jamaican and being a Jamaican Journal of course it matches up. Of course for anything that you believe needs citation I do have them available.
Now Harold Belafonte is a Jamaican-American who's artistic talents were spread across song, dance, and acting. Born on March 1, 1927 in Harlem, New York, up until he was 9 Harry had spent his youth in Harlem where he bore the pressures of poverty and racism by both the whites living in the neighbourhood and even at home with his father who preferred Harry's brother because of his lighter skin tone. He then moved with his mother to Jamaica, where he experienced similar discrimination due to the hue of his skin. However it was in Jamaica where Harry experienced the bright and rhythmic sounds of the calypso music that later became a major part of his career.
Upon returning to Harlem where he again faced racial pressure Belafonte constantly was found to be getting into fights due to the discrimination he felt. Belafonte also participated in the second world war and upon returning to america began to gain many major roles in films and also his musical career began to soar. By the middle of the 1950's he had taken part in the box office smash Carmen Jones and his RCA albums outsold even Elvis Prelsey's albums and he became the first solo artist to sell over a million copies of an album. It was therefore astonishing to believe that Belafonte was willing to gamble his newly attained wealth and status to support the civil rights movement and by extension lose the majority of his white audience. However under the influence of Paul Robeson he began to intentionally use his influence to denounce racial injustice and began to actively fund and take part in the civil rights movement.
Following his first meeting with Martin Luther King, Belafonte began to admire King's nonviolent method of protesting and he then became a close friend and confidanté of King. Belafonte supported King so much that he even began to contribute money to the then cash-strapped King's family. He used his wealth to feed, clothe, hired secretaries, and nannies and even took out a life insurance policy on King, which upon his death would be all payable to Coretta (King's wife). Belafonte was also instrumental in forming the CDMLK (Committe for the Defence of Martin Luther King) alongside A. Philip Randolph, Gardner Tayulor, Sidney Poitier and Nat King Cole. The CDMLK was created with the goal of defending King of any charges that the state may lay upon him and also it amassed a large amount of money which may be called upon at any time to defend King.
Belafonte's contributions also came in the form of his fundraising activities. Other than the large donations which he made to the CDMLK, Belafonte also held or was a part of many events, the proceeds of which went back into the Civil Rights organizations. Belafonte's contributions also helped the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Along with Sidney Potier he had managed to donate $60,000 to the SNCC which aided in the organization of the freedom rides to Mississippi. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) also used Belafonte's clout in order to gather more members in its organization. CORE sent out 200,000 letters (implanted with Belafonte's signature) appealing for membership or funding and its membership grew by 40% to become more than 20,000.
Furthermore Belafonte also assisted civil rights organizations by housing alot of its members and in some cases he became a chief advisor to them. Stanley Wise – a member of the SNCC – has stated that “Whenever SNCC workers were in New York, they would routinely stay in Belafonte's apartment”. His advisory role comes to light through the aid which he gave to the SNCC in its Voter Education Project – a project to get more black people to vote – where Belafonte advised them to secure money through the “freedom singers” tours.
Belafonte's participation in the civil rights movement began to affect him both monetarily and physically, though he continued to take an active role in the movement. Because of his public actions he was blacklisted and ignored by hollywood studios, so much so that he never appeared in another film until 1970. In addition Most tv shows would not feature him because of the threat of sponsors withdrawing their support. Belafonte was also subject to physical punishment because of his involvement and was subject to “Klan pursuits, and a tear-gas assault through the air conditioning system at a houston benefit”. However Harry Belafonte continued to participate and played a major role in the civil rights movement stating that “There was just no other choice. There was no other army to join. There was no other country to go to. There was no other head of state to appeal to. It was it. It was the day, i felt that there was no place else in the world to be other than here.”
**had to include a colour photo
I hope I managed to teach you something new today... Yes its boring history but if you read it you will see the importance of Belafonte. Without people like him it would be a different world today. Now go tell people about what I taught you, it makes me feel better.