Harry Belafonte, the legendary  entertainer and civil rights activist, known for his groundbreaking work as an actor and singer, has passed away at the age of 96. According to Ken Sunshine, his publicist, Belafonte died in NY at his house on Tuesday due to congestive heart failure, with his wife Pamela at his side.

Belafonte’s silky-husky voice and handsome face helped him become one of the initial black performers who gained a large following in film and sold over a million records as a singer. He is best remembered for his famous hit, “Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” but his greater legacy lies in his commitment to social justice and his belief that artists are “gatekeepers of truth.”

Harry Belafonte was a pioneer in the field of celebrity activism. He played an important role in bridging the gap between Hollywood and Washington, as well as the campaign for civil rights. Not only did he take part in demonstrations and benefit concerts, but he also helped plan and fundraise for these events. He was a close collaborator of Martin Luther King Jr.’s, and he advocated for him not just with politicians but also with other performers and even provided him with financial assistance.

In his life and work, Belafonte took a number of crucial risks. As a result, he established high standards for younger black superstars and served as a mentor to Usher, Common, Danny Glover, and a number of others.  Spike Lee also placed him in the role of an elderly statesman in his film “BlacKkKlansman,” released in 2018, where he instructs younger activists about the history of the nation.

He has four children, three of whom went on to have careers in the entertainment industry (Shari, David, and Gina). Belafonte was married a total of three times, the most recent time being to photographer Pamela Frank. In addition, he leaves behind two stepchildren and eight grandkids after his passing.