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HomeGeneralRenowned Dancer, Actress, Activist Julie Robinson Belafonte Dies at 95

Renowned Dancer, Actress, Activist Julie Robinson Belafonte Dies at 95

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Julie Harrison Belafonte alongside her Husband Harry Belafonte.
Source: Pinterest

Julie Robinson Belafonte, known for her multifaceted career as a dancer, actress, and advocate alongside her husband, singer Harry Belafonte, passed away on March 9 at the age of 95 in Los Angeles. Belafonte, a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement, leaves behind a legacy of activism and dedication to integration in the United States.

Belafonte’s journey began in Manhattan, where she was born Julia Mary Robinson on September 14, 1928, to Clara and George Robinson. Raised in a progressive environment, she attended the High School of Music and Art, excelling in dance.

At the age of 16, she earned a scholarship to the Katherine Dunham School of Dance and embarked on a career in dance. Later, she became a student teacher and joined the renowned all-Black Dunham dance company.

“I never thought she’d integrate her company,” she recalled in an interview with the radio station WBAI in 2015, “but I knew I was a good dancer.”

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Ms. Robinson, recognizable for her dark eyes, olive skin, and black hair, which she wore in a distinctive ponytail or pigtails that fell nearly to her waist, toured the world with the Dunham dancers. She sometimes roomed with her fellow dancer, Eartha Kitt, before Ms. Kitt became a celebrated singer and actress.

When the company was barred from hotels because of race, a not-infrequent occurrence in the United States and abroad, Ms. Robinson insisted on staying wherever the other dancers stayed. She remained with the company for seven years.

As a dancer, Belafonte toured the world with the Dunham dancers, facing racial discrimination in hotels but steadfastly insisting on staying with her fellow dancers.

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Her perseverance and talent earned her recognition, and she eventually transitioned to Hollywood, where she contributed to choreographing dance sequences and appeared in several films.

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It was on the set of “Carmen Jones” in 1954 that Belafonte met Harry Belafonte, introduced by their mutual friend Marlon Brando. Despite initial challenges, including Harry’s ongoing marriage to Margurite Belafonte, the two embarked on a relationship and later married in 1957.

Their interracial marriage sparked controversy in a time when such unions were rare and often met with hostility. Julie and Harry Belafonte’s partnership extended beyond their personal lives into the realm of activism.

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Together, they supported civil rights organizations, hosted fundraisers, and participated in marches and demonstrations. Julie played a significant role in planning events for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and advocating for racial equality.

During the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, Julie Belafonte advocated for ordinary citizens of Selma to lead the march, emphasizing inclusivity and equality. Her commitment to social justice extended to international diplomacy, as she facilitated communication between Cuba and the United States during a time of strained relations.

Throughout their marriage, Julie and Harry Belafonte navigated societal scrutiny and racial prejudice, but their dedication to each other and their shared values remained steadfast.

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Following their divorce in 2007, Julie continued her advocacy work and produced documentaries highlighting cultural heritage and resilience. Julie Robinson Belafonte’s impact transcended her roles as a wife and mother. She was a trailblazer, a social activist, and a champion for equality.

Her legacy lives on through her contributions to the civil rights movement and her commitment to fostering inclusivity and understanding. In her passing, Julie Robinson Belafonte leaves behind a profound legacy of courage, resilience, and unwavering dedication to social justice.

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