Happy Birthday Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte

Two lights of the entertainment and civil rights worlds are turning 90 this year, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.  Both men used their artistry and their fame to bring awareness to the plight of African-Americans in our country, as well to shine a spotlight on the amazing contributions African-Americans have made to our nation.

In 1959, Sidney Poitier visited Studs in the studio to talk about his new film The Defiant Ones.

In this clip, he tells Studs how he first became interested in acting.  It leads Studs to ask him, “Has the thought of playing a role, a person who is not necessarily Negro, just an actor; he is neither Negro nor white, just a certain character?  Has this thought occurred to you or come into your ken?”

“Oh of course it has,” replies Poitier.  In his response, he describes his hopes for a future we still have not attained.

In one of the earliest interviews we have in the archive, Studs sits down to talk with Harry Belafonte about music.

In this clip, Belafonte talks to Studs about how he perceives his responsibility as an artist: “I am intellectually conscious of the time when it first became evident to me that I had a responsibility as an artist, but my responsibility in relationship to my people, and in relationship to the culture of my people far surpassing anything else.  It was the recognition of this responsibility that I gave my artistic life a direction.”

Later on in the same interview, Studs and Belafonte talk about the role of the church in the African-American community.  Belafonte goes on to talk about Mahalia Jackson, how he believes that she embodies the role of a leader in the community and admires the way she connects spirituals and popular music.  He gives the example of her version of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and after talking about the history of the song, Belafonte asks to hear it.  You can hear it below.

We’re proud to have these men’s voices as part of our archive, and wish them both very happy 90th birthdays!

 

Poitier photo credit:  U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 – ca. 1978) – NARA – ARC Identifier:542075 (use http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/basic_search.jsp and search Actor and Vocalist Harry Belafonte), Avalik omand, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=146400
By United States Department of the Interior National Park Service – http://www.nps.gov/features/malu/feat0002/wof/Sidney_Poitier.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28814756

A conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.

Today, we take comfort and strength from the words of Dr. King.  Studs spoke with him in October of 1964, after it has been announced that he will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Dr. King and Studs are in the Chicago home of Mahalia Jackson, a “mutual friend;” they speak about people who have influenced Dr. King, how to laugh through the tough times, and the “revolutionary aspects of love.”

 

Photo credit: Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann in a crowd.]. By Rowland Scherman; restored by Adam Cuerden – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46527326