New York, December 16th, 2021 – Singer, actor, producer, and humanitarian Harry Belafonte has been named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by decree of the President of the Republic of France. The award was presented by Ambassador Philippe Etienne during a private ceremony in New York City.
The Order of the Legion of Honor is the highest award bestowed by the French government. This honor reflects France’s gratitude for Mr. Belafonte’s humanitarian efforts, as well as his contributions as a singer, actor, and movie producer, which together have had an immense impact on American, French, and global society.
Through his tireless work as a human rights activist, Mr. Belafonte supported the organization and funding of landmark initiatives including Freedom Summer, the Student Nonviolent Committee, the 1963 March on Washington, the cultural boycott of apartheid-era South Africa, and the charity fundraiser “We Are the World,” among many others. His career in entertainment has proven equally influential, bringing Calypso music to the world stage, going on to win several Grammy Awards, and becoming the first African American to win an Emmy Award for his special Tonight with Belafonte in 1959.
“Harry Belafonte’s exceptional and unprecedented role in public life is a testament to the values held dear by the United States and the French Republic, including many of the shared founding principles of our democratic societies: the pursuit of freedom, equality, and the assurance of human rights for all,” said Philippe Etienne, Ambassador of France to the United States. “It is our honor and privilege to recognize this legacy.”
Mr. Belafonte’s singular impact on Black life and American culture, over more than seven decades, will inspire France and the rest of the world for generations to come.
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The Order of the Legion of Honor is the highest award bestowed by the French government. Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize outstanding achievement in the military as well as in the public and private sectors, the award recognizes those who have rendered over twenty years of eminent service to France or, more broadly, it commends persons whose achievements uphold France’s ideals. American honorees include Renée Fleming, Robert O. Paxton, Barbra Streisand, and the late Elie Wiesel, as well as hundreds of World War II veterans.
The Cultural Services of the French Embassy, alongside Villa Albertine, promotes the best of French arts, literature, cinema, digital innovation, language, and higher education across the US. Headquartered in New York City and Washington D.C., with offices in eight other cities across the country, the Cultural Services brings artists, authors, intellectuals, and innovators to cities nationwide. It also builds partnerships between French and American artists, institutions and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. www.frenchculture.org