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Remembering The Great Josephine Baker


Josephine Baker was a renowned spy, performer, and activist. Baker was one of the most successful African American performers in French history. Baker's career illustrated how entertainers could use their platform to impact change on the world.

Josephine McDonald was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 3, 1906. Josephine's parents were entertainers; they performed in the Midwest and often brought her on stage at their shows. Their careers never gained traction, which led Josephina to work many odd jobs to make ends meet. If she could not support herself in a traditional sense, she would dance on the streets and collect money from people passing by. Her dancing eventually caught the attention of an African American theatre troupe. At the young age of fifteen, Josephina left home to begin traveling and performing with the group. She also married during this time. Hence she dropped her last name and became Josephine Baker.

Baker excelled as a dancer in many Vaudeville shows, a prevalent genre in the 20th century. She moved to New York City and participated in the celebration of black art and life, now known as the Harlem Renaissance. Baker's growing success and popularity led her to Paris. It wasn't long before Baker became the most entertaining dancer with her unique outfits and exciting dancing style. Baker's performances typically followed African American customs even though her audience was prominently white.

To add to an already impressive resume Baker joined the fight against Adolf Hilter and the Nazi regime. She assisted the French military by passing secrets she heard while performing the presence of enemies. She passed off top secret information by writing it with "invisible ink" on music sheets. After several years of staying in Paris, Baker returned to the US.

Her return home made Baker experience discrimination and segregation, something of which Baker hasn't experienced since she was a child. She often refused to perform at segregated clubs, which led to the owner integrating the Black and White audiences.

Her actions were seen by the (NAACP), and they allowed Baker to speak at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The iconic speech detailed her life both as an African-American woman in the US. as well as abroad.

Going into the 1970s, Baker continued her fight for racial injustices. Interestingly enough, Baker also adopted a total of 13 children from an array of countries. Baker called her family the "rainbow tribe" and took her children on the road to show them that racial tranquility and harmony could exist.