Legendary singer, songwriter, actor and activist Harry Belafonte will be honored with the 97th Spingarn Medal at the NAACP Spingarn Dinner, February 15th at 7:30 p.m. The ceremony will take place during the NAACP Annual Board Meeting at the New York Marriot Marquis Hotel.
The Spingarn Medal, the NAACP's highest honor, is awarded for outstanding and noble achievement by an American of African descent. The award will recognize Mr. Belafonte's history serving the civil rights movement, from the 1950's to the present day.
"Thank you to the NAACP and to Ben Jealous for the work you do and for the path you are forging for us in these troubled times," said Belafonte after his honor was announced at the 44th NAACP Image Awards on Friday, February 1st.
"Harry Belafonte has pursued a career of extraordinary accomplishment in the performing arts, during which he has unremittingly worked to fulfill his deep commitment to the American principle of equal opportunity and justice for all," stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. "He is an ultimate exemplar that race need be no insurmountable barrier to achievement."
"Mr. Belafonte has never been afraid to speak his mind, even when it might have put his career in danger," stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. "His combination of charisma and courage, artistic talent and intellectual prowess has made him icon for the ages and a powerful ally for civil and human rights advocates across the globe."
Harry Belafonte has a long history in the civil rights movement. During the 1960's he served as a confidant to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and raised money for civil rights protests. He also bankrolled and drew attention to the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. In 1987, he accepted an appointment as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, thus making him the second American to hold this title. Belafonte has continued to devote himself globally to civil and human rights issues, focusing in particular on the United States and Africa.
Mr. Belafonte has been honored many times by such diverse groups as the American Jewish Congress, the NAACP, the City of Hope, Fight for Sight, The Urban League, The National Conference of Black Mayors, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the ACLU, the State Department, the Boy Scouts of America, Hadassah International and the Peace Corps.
The Spingarn Medal was instituted in 1914 by then-NAACP Chairman Joel E. Spingarn. To date, 96 Spingarn Medals have been awarded, recognizing achievements in a range of fields. Medalists include former U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, NAACP Chairman Emeriti Julian Bond and Myrlie Evers-Williams, Rosa Parks, and Dr. King.