ESTHER ADLER: By the 1950’s, Harry Belafonte is such a huge pop star, that he’s given an entire hour of primetime television to program. And he commissions Charles White to make this image for use on that show.
HARRY BELAFONTE: I couldn't find enough ways in which to let the world be exposed to Charlie. I was so caught up in his work. I said in this special not only will they hear the beauty of the songs but the audience would have a visual experience—not just a set —but something that was filled with passion. It shook up television because they never quite saw anything like that, all this blackness. It was incredible.
ESTHER ADLER: Belafonte and White first meet in 1947 at a meeting of the Committee for the Negro in the Arts.
HARRY BELAFONTE: I was quite young. I had just come out of the war and uh, I had no identity. I walked into a place that just blew me away. A lot of black people gathered in a room making noise and talking and looking like they had purpose in life. And I said goddamn, this is a place for me to at least start. The purpose was to advance black culture. It was to become major participants in the American cultural scene. We could convene and debate and get a grasp on what the collective power of black art could do. It was the center of rebellious thought, glorious thought, and the leaders of that were people like Charlie White and Langston Hughes and James Baldwin.