There was a little more resonance than usual when the Woman’s National Democratic Club presented its Eleanor Award for social justice Tuesday night. This year’s honoree, Harry Belafonte, actually knew the Eleanor in question.

Harry Belafonte with Eleanor Roosevelt Seagraves, granddaughter of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and her daughter Anna Seagraves Fierst at the WNDC Educational Foundation honors on Tuesday. (Rebecca D’Angelo/WNDC)

“When Eleanor first called me she said, ‘Mr. Belafonte, my name is Eleanor Roosevelt. You may have heard of me?’” the singer-activist recalled. “That was an epiphany. Not just the gentility, but the humility.”

Now 86, Belafonte became friends with the former first lady in her later years while he was carving a path as one of the first (and most successful) celebvocates, marching for civil rights and raising funds for poor children. “Eleanor always had her hand on the pulse,” he said. “Her strength, her courage, her counsel, forever guided me. . . She forever set a course that defined for me what a moral compass is.”

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