Harry Belafonte was a disarmingly handsome sex symbol of the 1950s and 1960s, a rare black leading man who challenged the pervasive racial segregation of American pop culture. He rose to prominence acting with Sidney Poitier and Marlon Brando and shared the stage with Dorothy Dandridge, as well as headlined national tours as the crooner of the million-selling calypso single “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).”

And yet, as the new HBO documentary Sing Your Song (premiering October 17th) notes, he still suffered from the abject bigotry of the era: in 1952, while touring the South with his interracial band, a police officer threatened to kill him if he used the restroom reserved for white patrons.

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