Josephine Baker
Overview
Josephine Baker was an American dancer, singer, and actress who found fame in her adopted homeland of France. She was given such nicknames as the "Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", and the "Créole Goddess".

Baker was the first African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 female to star in a major motion picture, to integrate
Racial integration
Racial integration, or simply integration includes desegregation . In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely...

 an American concert hall, and to become a world-famous entertainer. She is also noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement
Civil rights movement
The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was...

 in the United States (she was offered the unofficial leadership of the movement by Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King was an American author, activist, and civil rights leader. The widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King helped lead the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.Mrs...

 in 1968 following Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

's assassination, but turned it down), for assisting the French Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

 during World War II, and for being the first American-born woman to receive the French military
Military of France
The French Armed Forces encompass the French Army, the French Navy, the French Air Force and the National Gendarmerie. The President of the Republic heads the armed forces, with the title "chef des armées" . The President is the supreme authority for military matters and is the sole official who...

 honor, the Croix de guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

.
Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

, the daughter of Carrie McDonald.
Encyclopedia
Josephine Baker was an American dancer, singer, and actress who found fame in her adopted homeland of France. She was given such nicknames as the "Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", and the "Créole Goddess".

Baker was the first African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 female to star in a major motion picture, to integrate
Racial integration
Racial integration, or simply integration includes desegregation . In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely...

 an American concert hall, and to become a world-famous entertainer. She is also noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement
Civil rights movement
The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was...

 in the United States (she was offered the unofficial leadership of the movement by Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King was an American author, activist, and civil rights leader. The widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King helped lead the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.Mrs...

 in 1968 following Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

's assassination, but turned it down), for assisting the French Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

 during World War II, and for being the first American-born woman to receive the French military
Military of France
The French Armed Forces encompass the French Army, the French Navy, the French Air Force and the National Gendarmerie. The President of the Republic heads the armed forces, with the title "chef des armées" . The President is the supreme authority for military matters and is the sole official who...

 honor, the Croix de guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

.

Early life

Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

, the daughter of Carrie McDonald. Her estate identifies vaudeville drummer Eddie Carson as her natural father. A biography written by her foster son Jean-Claude Baker
Jean-Claude Baker
Jean-Claude Baker, born Jean-Claude Julien Léon Tronville in Dijon, France, is an American restaurateur. He met the American-born French entertainer Josephine Baker when he was working as a bellhop in Paris, at the age of fourteen, in 1958. He then became the last of twelve children adopted into...

 stated:
Her mother, Carrie, was adopted in Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Rock, Arkansas
Little Rock is the capital and the largest city of the U.S. state of Arkansas. The Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 699,757 people in the 2010 census...

 in 1886 by Richard and Elvira McDonald, both of whom were former slaves
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 of African and Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 descent. When Baker was eight she was sent to work for a white woman who abused
Child abuse
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment, or neglect of a child. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Children And Families define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or...

 her, burning Baker's hands when she put too much soap in the laundry. She later went to work for another woman.
Baker dropped out of school at the age of 12 and lived as a street child in the slums of St. Louis, sleeping in cardboard shelters and scavenging for food in garbage cans
Waste container
A waste container is a container for temporarily storing refuse and waste. Different terms are in use, depending on the language area, the design and material and the respective site .The most general terms are waste receptacle and container bin.Common terms include dustbin ,...

. Her street-corner dancing
Busking
Street performance or busking is the practice of performing in public places, for gratuities, which are generally in the form of money and edibles...

 attracted attention and she was recruited for the St. Louis Chorus vaudeville
Vaudeville
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

 show at 15. She then headed to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance
Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke...

, performing at the Plantation Club and in the chorus of the popular Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 revues Shuffle Along
Shuffle Along
Shuffle Along is the first major successful African American musical. Written by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles, with music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, the musical premiered on Broadway in 1921.-Plot:...

(1921) with Adelaide Hall
Adelaide Hall
Adelaide Hall was an American-born U.K.-based jazz singer and entertainer.Hall was born in Brooklyn, New York and was taught to sing by her father...

 and The Chocolate Dandies (1924). She performed as the last dancer in a chorus line
Chorus line
A chorus line is a substantial group of dancers who together perform synchronized routines, usually in musical theatre. Sometimes, singing is also performed. Chorus line dancers in Broadway musicals and revues have been referred to by slang terms such as ponies, gypsies and twirlies...

, a position in which the dancer traditionally performed in a comic manner, as if she was unable to remember the dance, until the encore
Encore (concert)
An encore is an additional performance added to the end of a concert, from the French "encore", which means "again", "some more"; multiple encores are not uncommon. Encores originated spontaneously, when audiences would continue to applaud and demand additional performance from the artist after the...

, at which point she would not only perform it correctly, but with additional complexity. Baker was then billed as "the highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville
Vaudeville
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

".

On October 2, 1925, she opened in Paris at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées
Théâtre des Champs-Élysées
The Théâtre des Champs-Élysées is a theatre at 15 avenue Montaigne. Despite its name, the theatre is not on the Champs-Élysées but nearby in another part of the 8th arrondissement of Paris....

, where she became an instant success for her erotic dancing
Burlesque
Burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects...

 and for appearing practically nude on stage. After a successful tour of Europe, she reneged on her contract and returned to France to star at the Folies Bergères
Folies Bergères
The Folies Bergère established in 1869 in Paris, France, is a music hall which was at the height of its fame and popularity from the 1890s through the 1920s. the institution is still in business.-History:...

, setting the standard for her future acts. She performed the Danse sauvage, wearing a costume consisting of a skirt made of a string of artificial bananas. Her success coincided (1925) with the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs, which gave birth to the term "Art Deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

", and also with a renewal of interest in ethnic forms of art, including African. Baker represented one aspect of this fashion. In later shows in Paris she was often accompanied on stage by her pet cheetah
Cheetah
The cheetah is a large-sized feline inhabiting most of Africa and parts of the Middle East. The cheetah is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx, most notable for modifications in the species' paws...

, Chiquita, who was adorned with a diamond
Diamond
In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

 collar. The cheetah frequently escaped into the orchestra pit
Orchestra pit
An orchestra pit is the area in a theater in which musicians perform. Orchestral pits are utilized in forms of theatre that require music or in cases when incidental music is required...

, where it terrorized the musicians, adding another element of excitement to the show.

Rise to fame

After a short while she was the most successful American entertainer working in France. Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

 called her "… the most sensational woman anyone ever saw." In addition to being a musical star, Baker also starred in three films which found success only in Europe: the silent film
Silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

 Siren of the Tropics (1927), Zouzou
Zouzou (film)
-Plot:As children, Zouzou and Jean are paired in a traveling circus as twins: she's dark, he's light. After they've grown, he treats her as if she were his sister, but she's in love with him. In Paris, he's a music hall electrician, she's a laundress who delivers clean underwear to the hall. She...

(1934) and Princesse Tam Tam (1935). She also starred in Fausse Alerte (English title: The French Way) in 1940.

At this time she also scored her most successful song, "J'ai deux amours" (1931) and became a muse
Muse
The Muses in Greek mythology, poetry, and literature, are the goddesses who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths...

 for contemporary authors, painters, designers, and sculptors including Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes
James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance...

, Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the paradigm writings of the Jazz Age, a term he coined himself. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Fitzgerald is considered a member of the "Lost...

, Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

, and Christian Dior
Christian Dior
Christian Dior , was a French fashion designer, best known as the founder of one of the world's top fashion houses, also called Christian Dior.-Life:...

. Under the management of Giuseppe Pepito Abatino — a Sicilian former stonemason who passed himself off as a count
Count
A count or countess is an aristocratic nobleman in European countries. The word count came into English from the French comte, itself from Latin comes—in its accusative comitem—meaning "companion", and later "companion of the emperor, delegate of the emperor". The adjective form of the word is...

 — Baker's stage and public persona, as well as her singing voice, were transformed.

In 1934 she took the lead in a revival of Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach was a Prussian-born French composer, cellist and impresario. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr....

's 1875 opera La créole at the Théâtre Marigny on the Champs-Élysées
Champs-Élysées
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is a prestigious avenue in Paris, France. With its cinemas, cafés, luxury specialty shops and clipped horse-chestnut trees, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets and one of the most expensive strip of real estate in the world. The name is...

 of Paris, which premiered in December of that year for a six month run. In preparation for her performances she went through months of training with a vocal coach. In the words of Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey
Dame Shirley Bassey, DBE , is a Welsh singer. She found fame in the late 1950s and was "one of the most popular female vocalists in Britain during the last half of the 20th century"...

, who has cited Baker as her primary influence, "… she went from a 'petite danseuse sauvage' with a decent voice to 'la grande diva magnifique' … I swear in all my life I have never seen, and probably never shall see again, such a spectacular singer and performer."

Despite her popularity in France, she never obtained the same reputation in America. Upon a visit to the United States in 1935-1936, her performances received poor opening reviews for her starring role in the Ziegfeld Follies
Ziegfeld Follies
The Ziegfeld Follies were a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 through 1931. They became a radio program in 1932 and 1936 as The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air....

and she was replaced by Gypsy Rose Lee
Gypsy Rose Lee
Gypsy Rose Lee was an American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act. She was also an actress, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.-Early life:...

 later in the run.

Baker returned to Paris in 1937, married a Frenchman, Jean Lion, who was Jewish, and became a French citizen. They were married in the French city of Crévecoeur le Grand. The wedding was presided over by the mayor at the time, Jammy Schmidt. During the ceremony, when she was asked if she was ready to give up her American citizenship, it has been claimed that she renounced it without difficulty.

Her affection for France was so great that when World War II broke out, she volunteered to spy for her adopted country.
Baker's agent's brother approached her about working for the French government as an "honorable correspondent", if she happened to hear any gossip at parties that might be of use to her adopted country, she could report it. Baker immediately agreed, since she was against the Nazi stand on race, not only because she was black but because her husband was Jewish. Her café society fame enabled her to rub shoulders with those in-the-know, from high-ranking Japanese officials to Italian bureaucrats, and report back what she heard. She attended parties at the Italian embassy without any suspicion falling on her and gathered information. She helped in the war effort in other ways, such as by sending Christmas presents to French soldiers. When the Germans invaded France, Baker left Paris and went to the Château des Milandes, her home in the south of France, where she had Belgian refugees living with her and others who were eager to help the Free French effort led from England by Charles de Gaulle. As an entertainer, Baker had an excuse for moving around Europe, visiting neutral nations like Portugal, and returning to France. Baker assisted the French Resistance by smuggling secrets written in invisible ink
Invisible ink
Invisible ink, also known as security ink, is a substance used for writing, which is invisible either on application or soon thereafter, and which later on can be made visible by some means. Invisible ink is one form of steganography, and it has been used in espionage...

 on her sheet music.

She helped mount a production in Marseille
Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

 to give herself and her like-minded friends a reason for being there. She helped quite a lot of people who were in danger from the Nazis get visas and passports to leave France. Later in 1941, she and her entourage went to the French colonies
French colonial empires
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 in North Africa; the stated reason was Baker's health (since she really was recovering from another case of pneumonia) but the real reason was to continue helping the Resistance. From a base in Morocco, she made tours of Spain and pinned notes with the information she gathered inside her underwear (counting on her celebrity to avoid a strip search
Strip search
A strip search is the stripping of a person to check for weapons or other contraband.-Legality of strip searches:...

) and made friends with the Pasha of Marrakesh, whose support helped her through a miscarriage (the last of several) and emergency hysterectomy she had to go through in 1942. Despite the state of medicine in that time and place, she recovered, and started touring to entertain Allied soldiers in North Africa. She even persuaded Egypt's King Farouk
Farouk of Egypt
Farouk I of Egypt , was the tenth ruler from the Muhammad Ali Dynasty and the penultimate King of Egypt and Sudan, succeeding his father, Fuad I, in 1936....

 to make a public appearance at one of her concerts, a subtle indication of which side his officially neutral country
Neutral country
A neutral power in a particular war is a sovereign state which declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents. A non-belligerent state does not need to be neutral. The rights and duties of a neutral power are defined in Sections 5 and 13 of the Hague Convention of 1907...

 leaned toward. Later, she would perform at Buchenwald for the liberated inmates who were too frail to be moved.

After the war, for her underground activity, Baker received the Croix de guerre, the Rosette de la Résistance
Médaille de la Résistance
The French Médaille de la Résistance was awarded by General Charles de Gaulle "to recognise the remarkable acts of faith and of courage that, in France, in the empire and abroad, have contributed to the resistance of the French people against the enemy and against its accomplices since June 18,...

, and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

 by General Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

.

In January 1966, she was invited by Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

 to perform at the Teatro Musical de La Habana in Havana, Cuba. Her spectacular show in April of that year led to record breaking attendance. In 1973, Baker opened at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

 to a standing ovation
Standing ovation
A standing ovation is a form of applause where members of a seated audience stand up while applauding after extraordinary performances of particularly high acclaim...

. In 1974, she appeared in a Royal Variety Performance
Royal Variety Performance
The Royal Variety Performance is a gala evening held annually in the United Kingdom, which is attended by senior members of the British Royal Family, usually the reigning monarch. In more recent years Queen Elizabeth II and The Prince of Wales have alternately attended the performance...

 at the London Palladium
London Palladium
The London Palladium is a 2,286 seat West End theatre located off Oxford Street in the City of Westminster. From the roster of stars who have played there and many televised performances, it is arguably the most famous theatre in London and the United Kingdom, especially for musical variety...

.

Civil rights activism

Although based in France, Baker supported the American Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s. She protested in her own way against racism, adopting 12 multi-ethnic orphans, whom she called the "Rainbow Tribe." In addition, she refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States. Her insistence on mixed audiences helped to integrate shows in Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Nevada and is also the county seat of Clark County, Nevada. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city for gambling, shopping, and fine dining. The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous...

.
In 1951, Baker made charges of racism against Sherman Billingsley
Sherman Billingsley
Sherman Billingsley was an American nightclub owner and former bootlegger who was the founder and owner of New York's Stork Club....

's Stork Club
Stork Club
The Stork Club was a nightclub in New York City from 1929 to 1965. From 1934 onwards, it was located at 3 East 53rd Street, just east of Fifth Avenue...

 in Manhattan, where she alleged that she'd been refused service. Actress Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly
Grace Patricia Kelly was an American actress who, in April 1956, married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, to become Princess consort of Monaco, styled as Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco, and commonly referred to as Princess Grace.After embarking on an acting career in 1950, at the age of...

, who was at the club at the time, rushed over to Baker, took her by the arm and stormed out with her entire party, vowing never to return (and she never did). However, during his work on the Stork Club book, author and New York Times reporter Ralph Blumenthal was contacted by Jean-Claude Baker
Jean-Claude Baker
Jean-Claude Baker, born Jean-Claude Julien Léon Tronville in Dijon, France, is an American restaurateur. He met the American-born French entertainer Josephine Baker when he was working as a bellhop in Paris, at the age of fourteen, in 1958. He then became the last of twelve children adopted into...

, one of Josephine Baker's sons. Having read a Blumenthal-written story about Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...

's FBI file, he indicated that he had read his mother's FBI file and using comparison of the file to the tapes, said he thought the Stork Club incident was overblown. The two women became close friends after the incident. Testament to this was made evident when Baker was near bankruptcy and was offered a villa and financial assistance by Kelly (who by then was princess consort
Princess consort
Princess consort is a title or an informal designation normally given to the wife of a sovereign prince. Since a male sovereign ruler is generally titled as a king and not a prince, the title of princess consort is not widely used. More rarely, it may be given to the spouse of a king, if the more...

 of Rainier III of Monaco
Rainier III, Prince of Monaco
Rainier III, Prince of Monaco , styled His Serene Highness The Sovereign Prince of Monaco, ruled the Principality of Monaco for almost 56 years, making him one of the longest ruling monarchs of the 20th century.Though he was best known outside of Europe for having married American...

).

Baker worked with the NAACP
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, usually abbreviated as NAACP, is an African-American civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909. Its mission is "to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to...

. In 1963, she spoke at the March on Washington
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the largest political rally for human rights in United States history and called for civil and economic rights for African Americans. It took place in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr...

 at the side of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

 Wearing her Free French uniform emblazoned with her medal of the Légion d'honneur, she was the only woman to speak at the rally. After King's assassination, his widow Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King was an American author, activist, and civil rights leader. The widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King helped lead the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.Mrs...

 approached Baker in Holland to ask if she would take her husband's place as leader of the American Civil Rights Movement. After many days of thinking it over, Baker declined, saying her children were "too young to lose their mother".

Personal life

Baker had 12 children through adoption. She bore only one child herself, stillborn in 1941, an incident which precipitated an emergency hysterectomy
Hysterectomy
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus, usually performed by a gynecologist. Hysterectomy may be total or partial...

. Baker raised two daughters, French-born Marianne and Moroccan-born Stellina, and ten sons, Korean-born Akio, Japanese-born Jeannot (or Janot), Colombian-born Luis, Finnish-born Jari, French-born Jean-Claude
Jean-Claude Baker
Jean-Claude Baker, born Jean-Claude Julien Léon Tronville in Dijon, France, is an American restaurateur. He met the American-born French entertainer Josephine Baker when he was working as a bellhop in Paris, at the age of fourteen, in 1958. He then became the last of twelve children adopted into...

 and Noël, Israeli-born Moïse, Algerian-born Brahim, Ivorian-born Koffi, and Venezuelan-born Mara. For some time, Baker lived with her children and an enormous staff in a castle, Château de Milandes
Château de Milandes
The Château des Milandes is a small castle in the commune of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle in the Dordogne département of France. Built around 1489, it was the main house of the lords of Caumont until 1535, who preferred to live in this manor house instead of the large, uncomfortable medieval castle of...

, in Dordogne
Dordogne
Dordogne is a départment in south-west France. The départment is located in the region of Aquitaine, between the Loire valley and the High Pyrénées named after the great river Dordogne that runs through it...

, France.

There is evidence to suggest that Baker was bisexual. Her son Jean-Claude Baker and co-author Chris Chase
Chris Chase
Chris Chase, also known by the stage name Irene Kane, is an American model, actor and journalist. Her best-known role is in Killer's Kiss by Stanley Kubrick. She later wrote advice books and co-authored several celebrity autobiographies....

 state in Josephine: The Hungry Heart that she was involved in numerous lesbian
Lesbian
Lesbian is a term most widely used in the English language to describe sexual and romantic desire between females. The word may be used as a noun, to refer to women who identify themselves or who are characterized by others as having the primary attribute of female homosexuality, or as an...

 affairs, both while she was single and married, and mention six of her female lovers by name. Clara Smith, Evelyn Sheppard, Bessie Allison
Bessie A. Buchanan
Bessie Allison Buchanan of Manhattan in New York City became the first African-American woman to hold a seat in the New York State Legislature when she was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1954....

, Ada "Bricktop" Smith, and Mildred Smallwood were all African-American women whom she met while touring on the black performing circuit early in her career. She was also reportedly involved intimately with French writer Colette
Colette
Colette was the surname of the French novelist and performer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette . She is best known for her novel Gigi, upon which Lerner and Loewe based the stage and film musical comedies of the same title.-Early life and marriage:Colette was born to retired military officer Jules-Joseph...

. Not mentioned, but confirmed since, was her affair with Mexican
Mexican people
Mexican people refers to all persons from Mexico, a multiethnic country in North America, and/or who identify with the Mexican cultural and/or national identity....

 artist Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo de Rivera was a Mexican painter, born in Coyoacán, and perhaps best known for her self-portraits....

. Jean-Claude Baker, who interviewed over 2,000 people while writing his book, wrote that affairs with women were not uncommon for his mother throughout her lifetime. He was quoted in one interview as saying:
"She was what today you would call bisexual, and I will tell you why. Forget that I am her son, I am also a historian. You have to put her back into the context of the time in which she lived. In those days, Chorus Girls were abused by the white or black producers and by the leading men if he liked girls. But they could not sleep together because there were not enough hotels to accommodate black people. So they would all stay together, and the girls would develop lady lover friendships, do you understand my English? But wait wait...If one of the girls by preference was gay, she'd be called a bull dyke by the whole cast. So you see, discrimination is everywhere."

Death

On April 8, 1975, Baker starred in a retrospective revue at the Bobino
Bobino
Bobino at 20 rue de la Gaîté, in the Montparnasse area of Paris , France, is a music hall theatre that has seen most of the biggest names of 20th century French music perform there....

 in Paris, Joséphine à Bobino 1975, celebrating her 50 years in show business. The revue, financed by Prince Rainier, Princess Grace, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier "Jackie" Kennedy Onassis was the wife of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, and served as First Lady of the United States during his presidency from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. Five years later she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle...

, opened to rave reviews. Demand for seating was such that fold-out chairs had to be added to accommodate spectators. The opening-night audience included Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren, OMRI is an Italian actress.In 1962, Loren won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Two Women, along with 21 awards, becoming the first actress to win an Academy Award for a non-English-speaking performance...

, Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger
Sir Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger is an English musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist and a founding member of The Rolling Stones....

, Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey
Dame Shirley Bassey, DBE , is a Welsh singer. She found fame in the late 1950s and was "one of the most popular female vocalists in Britain during the last half of the 20th century"...

, Diana Ross
Diana Ross
Diana Ernestine Earle Ross is an American singer, record producer, and actress. Ross was lead singer of the Motown group The Supremes during the 1960s. After leaving the group in 1970, Ross began a solo career that included successful ventures into film and Broadway...

 and Liza Minnelli
Liza Minnelli
Liza May Minnelli is an American actress and singer. She is the daughter of singer and actress Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli....

.

Four days later, Baker was found lying peacefully in her bed surrounded by newspapers with glowing reviews of her performance. She was in a coma
Coma
In medicine, a coma is a state of unconsciousness, lasting more than 6 hours in which a person cannot be awakened, fails to respond normally to painful stimuli, light or sound, lacks a normal sleep-wake cycle and does not initiate voluntary actions. A person in a state of coma is described as...

 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. She was taken to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital
Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital
The Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital is a teaching hospital located in Paris, France. Part of the Assistance publique - Hôpitaux de Paris, it is one of Europe's largest hospitals...

, where she died, aged 68, on April 12, 1975. Her funeral was held at L'Église de la Madeleine. The first American woman to receive full French military honors at her funeral, Baker locked up the streets of Paris one last time. She was interred at the Cimetière de Monaco in Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo is an administrative area of the Principality of Monaco....

.

Legacy

Place Joséphine Baker in the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris was named in her honor. She has also been inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame
St. Louis Walk of Fame
The St. Louis Walk of Fame honors well-known people from St. Louis, Missouri, who made contributions to culture of the United States. All inductees were either born in the Greater St. Louis area or spent their formative or creative years there...

 and the Hall of Famous Missourians
Hall of Famous Missourians
The Hall of Famous Missourians is located in Jefferson City, Missouri, in the third-floor rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol. The group of bronze busts depicts prominent Missourians honored for their achievements and contributions to the state. Inductees are selected by the Speaker of the...

. Her name has also been incorporated at Paris Plage, a man-made beach along the river Seine "Piscine Joséphine Baker".

Two of Baker's sons, Jean-Claude and Jarry (Jari), grew up to go into business together, running the restaurant Chez Josephine on Theatre Row, 42nd Street
42nd Street (Manhattan)
42nd Street is a major crosstown street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, known for its theaters, especially near the intersection with Broadway at Times Square. It is also the name of the region of the theater district near that intersection...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, which celebrates Baker's life and works.

Portrayals

  • In 2006, Jérôme Savary
    Jérôme Savary
    Jérôme Savary is a French theater director and actor. His work has democratized and widened the appeal of musical theater in France, drawing together and blending such genres as opera, operetta, and musical comedy.- Biography :...

     produced a musical, "A La Recherche de Josephine - New Orleans for Ever" (Looking for Josephine). The story revolved around the history of jazz and Baker's career.
  • In 1991, Baker's life story, The Josephine Baker Story
    The Josephine Baker Story
    The Josephine Baker Story is a 1991 television movie that debuted on the TV Broadcasting System, HBO. The movie told the life of that of Josephine Baker, an African-American, who rose to popularity in France, in the late-1920s, with her "banana dance"; meaning she wore only bananas on her bottom,...

    , was broadcast on HBO. Lynn Whitfield
    Lynn Whitfield
    Lynn Whitfield is an American actress.Whitfield began her acting career in television and theatre, before progressing to supporting roles in film. She won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special and a NAACP Image Award for her performance as Josephine Baker in the...

     portrayed Baker, and won an Emmy Award
    Emmy Award
    An Emmy Award, often referred to simply as the Emmy, is a television production award, similar in nature to the Peabody Awards but more focused on entertainment, and is considered the television equivalent to the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards .A majority of Emmys are presented in various...

     for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie--becoming the first Black actress to win the award in this category.
  • Josephine Baker appears in her role as a member of the French Resistance in Johannes Mario Simmel's 1960 novel, "Es Muss Nicht Immer Kaviar Sein" (On a pas toujours du caviar).
  • The 2004 erotic novel
    Erotic literature
    Erotic literature comprises fictional and factual stories and accounts of human sexual relationships which have the power to or are intended to arouse the reader sexually. Such erotica takes the form of novels, short stories, poetry, true-life memoirs, and sex manuals...

     Scandalous by British author Angela Campion uses Baker as its heroine and is inspired by Baker's sexual exploits and later adventures in the French Resistance. In the novel, Baker, working with a fictional black Canadian
    Black Canadian
    'Black Canadians is a designation used for people of Black African descent, who are citizens or permanent residents of Canada. The term specifically refers to Canadians with Sub-Saharan African ancestry. The majority of Black Canadians are of Caribbean origin...

     lover named Drummer Thompson, foils a plot by French fascists in 1936 Paris.
  • Her influence upon and assistance with the careers of husband and wife dancers Carmen De Lavallade
    Carmen De Lavallade
    Carmen De Lavallade is a dancer, choreographer, professor and stage and film actress.-Early Years:Carmen De Lavallade was born in Los Angeles on March 6, 1931, to Afro-Creole parents from New Orleans, Louisiana. She was raised by her aunt who owned one of the first African American history...

     and Geoffrey Holder
    Geoffrey Holder
    Geoffrey Richard Holder is a Trinidadian actor, choreographer, director, dancer, painter, costume designer, singer and voice-over artist.-Early life:...

     are discussed and illustrated in rare footage in the 2005 Linda Atkinson/Nick Doob documentary
    Documentary
    A documentary is a creative work of non-fiction, including:* Documentary film, including television* Radio documentary* Documentary photographyRelated terms include:...

    , Carmen and Geoffrey.
  • Beyoncé Knowles
    Beyoncé Knowles
    Beyoncé Giselle Knowles , often known simply as Beyoncé, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she enrolled in various performing arts schools and was first exposed to singing and dancing competitions as a child...

     has portrayed Baker on various accounts throughout her career. During the 2006 Fashion Rocks
    Fashion Rocks
    Fashion Rocks was an annual international charity fundraiser event which features fashions by the world's top designers being presented to live performances by popular music acts.The inaugural event was held at the Royal Albert Hall on October 15, 2003...

     show, Knowles performed "Dejá Vu" in a revised version of the Danse banane costume. In Knowles's video for "Naughty Girl
    Naughty Girl
    Naughty Girl may refer to:*"Naughty Girl" , a 2002 song*"Naughty Girl" , a 2004 song*"Naughty Girl" , a 2008 song*"Naughty Girls ", a 1987 song by Samantha Fox...

    ", she is seen dancing in a huge champagne glass á La Baker. In I Am... Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas
    I Am... Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas
    I Am... Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas is a live CD/DVD by American R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles. It was shot at the Encore Theater, Las Vegas, on August 2, 2009 during a stint of her worldwide I Am… Tour...

    , Beyonce lists Baker as an influence of a section of her live show.
  • In the 1997 animated film Anastasia
    Anastasia (1997 film)
    Anastasia is a 1997 American animated musical film produced and directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. It was the first feature film to be released by Fox Animation Studios....

    , Baker appears with her cheetah during the musical number "Paris Holds the Key (to Your Heart)". A character clearly based upon Baker (topless, wearing the famous 'banana skirt') appears in the opening sequence of the 2003 animated film Les Triplettes de Belleville
    Les Triplettes de Belleville
    The Triplets of Belleville is a 2003 animated comedy film written and directed by Sylvain Chomet. It was released as Belleville Rendez-vous in the United Kingdom...

    .
  • A German submariner mimics Baker's Danse banane in the film Das Boot
    Das Boot
    Das Boot is a 1981 German epic war film written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, produced by Günter Rohrbach, and starring Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, and Klaus Wennemann...

    .
  • In 2010, Keri Hilson
    Keri Hilson
    Keri Lynn Hilson is an American R&B singer-songwriter. Born and raised in Decatur, Georgia, Hilson began her music career as a songwriter, penning tracks for several artists in the mid-2000s as part of the five-person production and songwriting team, The Clutch...

     portrayed Baker in her single "Pretty Girl Rock
    Pretty Girl Rock
    "Pretty Girl Rock" is a mid-tempo R&B and pop song, that incorporates an interpolation of "Just the Two of Us" by Grover Washington, Jr.. The song makes use of heavy drums and slinky piano and is built on bouncy R&B beats...

    ".
  • Artist Hassan Musa
    Hassan Musa
    Hassan Musa is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Southern France. Musa is considered an important contemporary African artist....

     portrayed Baker in a series of paintings called Who needs Bananas?
  • In 2011, Sonia Rolland
    Sonia Rolland
    Sonia Rolland is a French actress and former Miss France she has also competed at Miss Universe. She is the first African-born Miss France pagant winner....

     portrayed Baker in the film Midnight in Paris
    Midnight in Paris
    Midnight in Paris is a 2011 romantic comedy-fantasy film written and directed by Woody Allen. The plot centers on a small group of Americans visiting the French capital for business and pleasure...

    .

Filmography

  • La Sirène des tropiques (1927) Aka Siren of the Tropics
  • Zouzou
    Zouzou (film)
    -Plot:As children, Zouzou and Jean are paired in a traveling circus as twins: she's dark, he's light. After they've grown, he treats her as if she were his sister, but she's in love with him. In Paris, he's a music hall electrician, she's a laundress who delivers clean underwear to the hall. She...

    (1934)
  • Princesse Tam Tam (1935) Aka Princess Tam-Tam
  • Fausse alerte (1940) Aka The French Way
  • Moulin Rouge (1941)
  • An jedem Finger zehn (1954) Aka Ten on Every Finger
  • Carosello del varietà (1955)
  • Grüsse aus Zürich (1963, ZDF
    ZDF
    Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen , ZDF, is a public-service German television broadcaster based in Mainz . It is run as an independent non-profit institution, which was founded by the German federal states . The ZDF is financed by television licence fees called GEZ and advertising revenues...

     TV)

Further reading

  • The Josephine Baker collection, 1926–2001 at Stanford University Libraries
  • Baker, J. C. & Chase, C. (1993). Josephine: The Hungry Heart. New York: Random House.
  • Bonini, Emmanuel (2000). La veritable Josephine Baker. Paris: Pigmalean Gerard Watelet.
  • Kraut, Anthea, Between Primitivism and Diaspora: The Dance Performances of Josephine Baker, Zora Neale Hurston
    Zora Neale Hurston
    Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance...

    , and Katherine Dunham
    Katherine Dunham
    Katherine Mary Dunham was an American dancer, choreographer, songwriter, author, educator, and activist...

    , Theatre Journal 55 (2003): 433–50.
  • Jules-Rosette, Bennetta (2006). "Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and the Image". Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • Schroeder, Alan, Ragtime Tumpie (Little, Brown, 1989), an award-winning children's picture book about Baker's childhood in St. Louis and her dream of becoming a dancer.
  • Schroeder, Alan, Josephine Baker (Chelsea House, 1990), a young-adult biography.
  • Theile, Merlind. "Adopting the World: Josephine Baker's Rainbow Tribe" Spiegel Online International, October 2, 2009.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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