Harry Belafonte

On the passing of Harry Belafonte
SNCC Legacy Project (SLP)


As remembered by the SNCC Legacy Project (SLP) ~ (Facebook page)
April 25, 2023

Friend of SNCC, entertainer, humanitarian Harry Belafonte died today at age 96. The SNCC Legacy Project mourns the passing of this great American. Mr. B. last sang in public at the SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference in 2010. Our condolences to his wife, children and extended family.


As remembered by Bruce Hartford
April 26, 2023

Harry Belafonte ¡Presente!

The world knew Harry Belafonte as a great singer and entertainer. We of the Civil Rights Movement knew him as a courageous fellow activist and life-long freedom fighter. Yes, year after year — when it was popular and when it wasn't — he performed at freedom march rallies, fundraising concerts, movement-staff retreats, and organizational conferences. But his service went went far deeper than entertainment. He was a movement planner, strategist, and at times a protest leader. He put his body and career on the line and was so respected that at times he was called upon to mediate and heal bitter disagreements between rival organizations and leaders.

We Freedom Movement veterans still remember:

And we remember that in the years that followed, decade after decade, Harry Belafonte continued to support and participate in campaigns for freedom, justice, and racial equality. From student strikes at places like San Francisco State to Black Lives Matter protests in cities across America.

Harry Belafonte ¡Presente!


As remembered by Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
April 26, 2023

An Activist

Belafonte was a fervent supporter of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (the Federation), and its many programs throughout the Southern Region. In 2003, the Federation marked Belafontes contributions by awarding him our highest honor, the Estelle Witherspoon Award at the Annual Awards Banquet in Birmingham, Alabama. The award is named after Estelle Witherspoon, the woman who led efforts to unite the Gees Bend quilters into the nationally famous Quilting Bee Co-op in Alberta, Alabama.

Belafonte was active in the civil rights movement and a close friend of civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1969, Belafonte wrote a fundraising letter urging people to donate towards the purchase of land for the Freedom Farm Cooperative. In his letter, Belafonte wrote that Freedom Farm was an "example of initiative, racial co-operation, and political militancy worthy of the support of all decent Americans."

Due to these fundraising efforts, enough money was raised to buy over 700 acres.

He continued to support and work with the Federation on present-day civil rights issues. During his talk at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis on January 17, 2013, Belafonte spoke of his efforts to bring the gangs of Los Angeles together to find ways to communicate. "I paid everyones way to Epes, Alabama, a backcountry settlement of former sharecroppers one hundred miles away from the nearest distractions. It now served as a base for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, dedicated to helping black farmers keep their land."

The late Ralph Paige, 2nd FSC/LAF Executive Director, worked very closely with Belafonte during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. Paige recounted: "We could not buy the support that Harry has given the Federation over the years. Without his (Belafontes) backing, the Federation could not have achieved so many things. I still call him a lot and in all those years he has never turned us down."

Belafonte supported the Federation and co-operatives because he understood that co-operatives focus on the daily task of building community and social networks. Co-operatives get poor people to work together yet co-operatives take time. Belafonte often funded and participated in Federation events that were gatherings of all races to look for ways to work together in the rural South. Belafonte has stuck with the Federation through thick and thin.

[The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is a 56-year-old cooperative association of Black farmers, landowners, and cooperatives.]


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