On the passing of Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte and The Freedom Singers
at The SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference

~ On the passing of ~


March 1, 1927 – April 25, 2023

Harry BelafonteWe who are veterans of SNCC are profoundly pained by the passing of Harry Belafonte. It is Harry Belafonte, the fighter for human and civil rights, that we remember. He was much, much more than a celebrity who supported SNCC and the larger movement. He was a comrade and friend in struggle, providing us with the wisdom that came from his long and deep involvement in that struggle. Though we at times differed in our approach — as always happens when generations work together – the bonds between SNCC organizers and Harry that were forged over years of working together for social justice remained.

Much of SNCC’s strength came from our relationship with the older activists who helped guide us, a rarely explored dimension of the freedom movement. This synergy existed between Harry and us, but also between Fannie Lou Hamer and us, Ella Baker and us, Amzie Moore and us… and many others across the Blackbelt South, as a well as throughout our projects above and below the Mason-Dixon Line. It is within this pantheon that Harry belongs and it is this relationship that provides important lessons for the struggle today.

In 2010, Harry was a keynoter at the 50th-anniversary conference that celebrated SNCC’s founding in April 1960. He strongly urged us not to rest on the laurels of our past and not to be comfortable with what we had gained, but to remember that we must continue to organize for a just world. Our commitment to this continuing human rights movement keeps Harry alive in our day-to-day lives today and should be uppermost in the minds of those who honor him today.

Featured Harry Belafonte Speeches

Freedom Concert

SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference

Hot 8 Brass Band
SNCC Freedom Singers

This session is full of the sound and power of movement song. Bernice Johnson Reagon explains the origin of the SNCC Freedom Singers. She introduces a brief video of Cordell Reagon who organized the singers with Charles Sherrod. Many well known activists participate in the session including Guy Carawan who introduced We Shall Overcome to SNCC in 1960 Folk singer Len Chandler, a regular presence at protests and rallies, explains singing freedom songs: “When you hear something twice, sing it!” Harry Belafonte leads the audience in his famous Banana Boat Song. SNCC’s own anthem, We’ll Never Turn Back, written by Georgia activist Bertha Gober, closes out the gathering.

Luncheon Keynote Speaker: Harry Belafonte

SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference