Story and photos by Gregg McQueen
It was a visit to a public library branch that changed Harry Belafonte’s life forever.
The legendary entertainer and social activist said he was introduced to theater by attending a show at the Schomburg Center of the New York Public Library (NYPL).
“Life for me, that moment, was an epiphany. That moment led me to a place I never retreated from,” remarked Belafonte, who said the experience moved him to become a performer, and to train at Schomburg with talent like Sidney Poitier, Ozzie Davis and Ruby Dee.
A Harlem native, Belafonte routinely visited NYPL’s 115th Street branch growing up. As a child, he suffered from a learning disorder and endured vision loss in one eye. He said he always found comfort in his visits to the branch, located at 203 West 115th Street.
“This library, being in this community, it did much to shape my life,” Belafonte stated.
“It was the public library system that gave me a chance to read books that I would not have touched otherwise,” he said.
The branch now permanently bears his name, as the NYPL has officially renamed it after Belafonte.
Read more: A Branch for Belafonte | Manhattan Times