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Civil Rights Activist and Award-Winning Artist Harry Belafonte to Speak at OU on Human Rights Causes

Harry Belafonte to Speak on Human Rights

Civil rights activist, humanitarian and award-winning artist Harry Belafonte will be the featured speaker at the University of Oklahoma.


NORMAN – Civil rights activist, humanitarian and award-winning artist Harry Belafonte will be the featured speaker at the University of Oklahoma for a public discussion on “My Life in Activism,” scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 8. Belafonte also will speak at a President’s Associates dinner on Thursday, Feb. 9.

“We are honored to have such a distinguished citizen leader come to the university,” said OU President David L. Boren. “He has eloquently reminded all Americans of our responsibility to protect the human rights of all people.”

Belafonte has been a well-known advocate for political and human rights causes as well as a successful singer, songwriter and actor. His passionate quest for justice led him to a long and deep commitment to the civil rights movement where during a trip to New York, he met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and developed a deep and abiding friendship until the leader’s assassination. Over the years, Belafonte worked with King, President John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela on various civil and human rights efforts. He was the driving force behind the 1985 “We Are the World” project to help people affected by war, drought and famine in Africa. The second American to be appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, he currently shares the task of tending to the needs of the children of the world and has devoted himself globally to civil and human rights issues. His close relationship with Mandela afforded him the opportunity to host the leader during his 1990 visit to the United States.

For his work in the social justice arena, Belafonte has been recognized with honors such as the Albert Einstein Award from Yeshiva University, the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize, the Nelson Mandela Courage Award, as well as awards from 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 American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. State Department, the Boy Scouts of America, Hadassah International and the Peace Corps.  

Belafonte also has been honored for his acting and musical talent. A recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors for excellence in the performing arts, he won a Tony Award for his Broadway debut in “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac” and an Emmy for “An Evening with Belafonte,” in which he also was the first black producer in television. His album “Calypso” made him the first artist in history to sell more than 1 million LPs. In 1994, he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts, the highest award given to artists and art patrons by the U.S. government. 

The public discussion is complimentary and open to the public and will take place in the Paul F. Sharp Concert Hall, Catlett Music Center, 500 W. Boyd St. For additional information on the public discussion, please call Karlos Hill at (405) 325-2327 or email Limited seating is available for the dinner by reservation for OU students, faculty and staff, with overflow seating available to the public. For reservations, more information and accommodations for the dinner, please call the OU Office of Public Affairs at (405) 325-3784 or email