NEW YORK (WABC) -- Harry Belafonte, the civil rights and entertainment giant who began as a groundbreaking actor and singer and became an activist, humanitarian and conscience of the world, has died at the age of 96.
Belafonte was born in Harlem in 1927 and died at his New York home of congestive heart failure with his wife by his side.
The legendary singer and activist revealed in multiple interviews throughout his life that he wanted to be remembered for his work not just as an artist, but as a champion of social justice.
The billboard outside the legendary Apollo Theater paid tribute to the icon within hours of the news of his death.
Belafonte was being remembered in Harlem not only for his star power but also for his commitment to equal rights.
"I think that people don't know how important he was to the movement, not the money, not the stardom, but the fire," said former Congressman Charles Rangel.
The CEO of Harlem's The National Black Theater, where Belafonte served as a producer on a recent production, called his belief that art should exist in the service of justice one of his lasting legacies.
As the news of his death spread on Tuesday, celebrities, dignitaries and politicians shared what Belafonte meant to the world.
May God Have My Dear Friend HARRY BELAFONTE At A Peaceful Rest. We Are Losing Our Giants Left And Right. We Have To Celebrate Our Elders While They Are With Us.
Gov. Kathy Hochul
An extraordinary artist, a giant of the civil rights movement, and an incredible New Yorker. He will be so dearly missed.
Rev. Al Sharpton
"Harry Belafonte was a true mentor and friend. I am heartbroken to hear of his death but inspired by the long, fruitful life he led. He realized his platform gave him the ability to affect change. He used it to advance the civil rights movement and get others in his position off the sidelines. I cherished the time he would give me and others to both guide and correct us. He was a culture-changing entertainer, a history-changing activist, and an unmatchable intellectual. Rest in peace and power, Mr. B."
Met Harry in 1948 and knew then he would be a huge star. More than that, he fought for social justice and equality and never, ever gave up. Our dearest of friends, he will be deeply missed by myself and so many for all he contributed to the world.
"When I was a child, #HarryBelafonte showed up for my family in very compassionate ways. In fact, he paid for the babysitter for me and my siblings. Here he is mourning with my mother at the funeral service for my father at Morehouse College. I won't forget...Rest well, sir."
"Harry Belafonte was a barrier-breaking legend who used his platform to lift others up. He lived a good life - transforming the arts while also standing up for civil rights. And he did it all with his signature smile and style. Michelle and I send our love to his wife, kids, and fans."
NYC Mayor Eric Adams
"This great son of Harlem leaves behind a legacy in the arts and in civil rights that has changed the world for the better. He will be truly missed."
Sen. Bernie Sanders
"Harry Belafonte was not only a great entertainer, but he was a courageous leader in the fight against racism and worker oppression. Jane and I were privileged to consider him a friend and will miss him very much."
"Another "GREAT TREE" has fallen: Harry Belafonte, a Trailblazer and Hero to us all. Thank you for your music, your artistry, your activism, your fight for civil rights and justice-especially risking your life back in the day to get money to the movement. Your being here on Earth has Blessed us all."
So many of us owe a debt of deep gratitude and inspiration to Harry Belafonte. As an artist and as an activist, he paved the way! With fearlessness and warmth and grace. This moment backstage at #AmericanSon was the last time I saw him. The pride he expressed and support he showed for my work on and off the stage will forever remain in my heart. The world lost a bright light this morning. But we will shine on and continue the fight for liberation in his honor! Rest in peace king
Amadeus, Sarafina, Malena and David Belafonte
"It is with a heavy heart that we have said goodbye to our beloved dad, father-in-law, and grandpa, the beyond amazing Harry Belafonte. To the world he was a legend, but to us he was Dad, Harry, Farfar - which means Grandpa in Danish - and he will always mean the world to us. We are heartbroken to have lost such a big presence in our lives and we will honor him in everything we do. His legacy is passed on to his four children, Adrienne, Shari, David, and Gina, as well as his five grandchildren, Rachel Blue, Brian, Maria, Sarafina, and Amadeus, all of whom he was so incredibly proud of. He also leaves behind his ex-wife Julie, sparring partner for 50+ years and the mother of his youngest children David and Gina, along with his third and current wife Pam, as well as his in-laws David Biesemeyer, Sam, Scott, and Malena. We will miss him terribly!"
VIDEO | Here And Now on February 24, 2019: Harry Belafonte Tribute
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