Siena remembers Belafonte’s support for King Lecture Series

Singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte is being remembered at Siena College. He spoke at the school 35 years ago.

Belafonte died Tuesday of congestive heart failure. He was 96 years old.

He came to Siena in January 1988 for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture Series on Race and Nonviolent Social Change. 

Paul Murray, professor emeritus of sociology at Siena, attended the 1988 event. He said Belafonte donated the honorarium from his lecture to begin the endowment supporting the College’s King Lecture Series.

Belafonte gained a wide following for his music and film work. Many still know him for his signature hit “Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” and its call of “Day-O! Daaaaay-O.”

After becoming a star in the 1950s, he scaled back his performing career in the 1960s to make time for activism. He participated in marches and benefit concerts, and worked closely with his friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.