Billboard’s Philanthropy Issue: Inside How the Music Industry Gives Back
"Whenever there was a need, I would just hear Dr. King say, ‘Call Harry,’” U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), a former aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., tells Billboard of Harry Belafonte’s civil rights activism. In 1963, when an imprisoned King was writing “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” it was Belafonte who worked behind the scenes to raise the bail money for King and the other jailed student protesters.
In 1965, during the march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama, Belafonte assembled Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Joan Baez, Sammy Davis Jr., Nina Simone, Peter, Paul & Mary and even Leonard Bernstein on an outdoor stage, constructed of caskets from a local African-American-owned funeral home, to perform for weary marchers. Following King’s assassination, in 1968, he quietly provided for King’s family.