ROME (AP) Miriam Makeba, the South African singer known to fans worldwide as ”Mama Africa” who became an international symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle, died early Monday after performing a concert in southern Italy, a hospital said. She was 76.
An emergency room official at the Pineta Grande Clinic, a private facility in Castel Volturno, said the singer died after being brought there. Italy’s ANSA news agency reported that Makeba may suffered a heart attack at the end of the concert for an Italian journalist threatened by the Naples-area Mafia.
Makeba, often called ”Mama Africa” and ”the Empress of African Song,” left South Africa in 1959. She tried to return in 1960 for the funeral of her mother, but her passport was revoked and she was not allowed to enter the country.
She lived in exile for 31 years in the United States, France, Guinea in West Africa and Belgium before having an emotional homecoming in Johannesburg in 1990, when many long-exiled South Africans returned under reforms instituted by then-President F.W. de Klerk.
”I never understood why I couldn’t come home,” Ms. Makeba said upon her return. ”I never committed any crime.”
In 1976, Makeba made speech before the United Nations denouncing the policy of apartheid, or racial segregation. After that, South Africa’s government-run radio and television refused to broadcast her songs until 1989.
Entertainer Steve Allen helped launch her career in the United States and she often toured with singer Harry Belafonte during the 1960s. In 1987 she performed with singer Paul Simon on his ”Graceland” concert tour.
One of her several marriages was to political activist Stokely Carmichael.