josephine baker

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Josephine Baker:

Josephine Baker African American international star, Civil rights activist, World War 2 heroine. (1906-1975)


Biography Freda McDonald aka Josephine Baker was born in 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri to Carrie McDonald and Eddie Carson. She was an American born French dancer, singer, and actress and became a citizen of France. Baker dropped out of school at the age of 12 and lived on the streets in the slums of St. Louis, sleeping in cardboard shelters and scavenging for food in garbage cans. Josephine was the first African-American female to star in a major motion picture. She rose to fame when she starred in three films that found success in Europe but at that time she was making music and became a muse for contemporary authors, painters, designers, and sculptors like Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway, f. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso. Josephine was a civil rights activist during the 1950s and protested her own way against racism; adopting 12 multi-ethnic orphans whom she called the “rainbow tribe.” She married four times and her first marriage was at the age of 13 with Pullman Porter Willie wells in 1918. She also married Willie Baker, Jean Lion, and Jo Bouillon. On April 12, 1975 Baker died at the age of 68 at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital. Place Josephine Baker in Paris was named in her honor and her legacy will still live on.

Rise to fame:

Rise to fame Before Josephine became a famous actress she was street corner dancing and was recruited for the St. Louis Chorus vaudeville show at the age of 15. She was the first African-American female to star in a major motion picture called Zouzou to integrate an American concert hall, and become a world-famous entertainer. In 1934 she took the lead in a revival of Jacques Offenbach's opera La Creole, which premiered in December of that year for a six month run at the Marigny theater in Paris.

World War 2:

World War 2 When ww2 broke out in France Josephine volunteered to spy on her adopted country and was an honorable correspondent. She agreed to do it and was against the Nazi stand on race, not because she was black but because her husband was Jewish . She would attend parties at the Italian embassy and gathered information. Baker helped mount a production in Marseille to give herself a reason to be there; she helped quite a lot of people who were in danger from the Nazis get passports and visas to leave. In 1941her and the entourage went to the French colonies in north Africa; the reason was Josephine's health but the real was to continue helping the resistance. After the war Baker received the Croix de guerre and the Rosette de la resistance and was made a chevalier of the Legion d`honneur by the general Charles de Gaulle.

Civil rights activism:

Civil rights activism During the 1950s Josephine became a supporter of the American Civil Rights Movement. She protested in her own way against racism when she adopted 12 multi-ethnic orphans who she called the “Rainbow Tribe.” Baker refused to perform for segregated audiences in the U.S. Her insistence on mixed audiences had helped her integrate shows in Las Vegas. In 1951, Josephine made charges of racism against the Sherman Billingsley’s stork club in Manhattan, when she allegedly had been refused service. Grace Kelly the actress rushed over to Baker and took her by the arm storming out with her entire party vowing to never return. Josephine had worked for the NAACP and spoke at the March on Washington at the side of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. She was the official female speaker while wearing a free French uniform emblazoned with her medal of the Legion she introduced the “Negro Women for civil rights.


Children Josephine had adopted 12 orphan children and called them the “Rainbow Tribe.” Her children are Jean-Claude Baker, Noel, Aiko, Moise, Stellina, Koffi, Jari, Luis, Marianne, Janot, Brahim, and Mara.


Husbands Her first husband was Willie wells a Pullman porter. Second husband was Willie Baker. Third husband Jean lion a Frenchman. Fourth husband Jo Bouillon.




Quotes “Surely the day will come when color means nothing more the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.” “The secret to the fountain of youth is to think youthful thoughts.” “I believe in prayer. It’s the best way we have to draw strength from heaven.” “I’m not intimidated by anyone. Everyone is made with two arms, two legs, a stomach and a head. Just think about that.” “A violinist had a violin, a painter his palette. All I had was myself. I was the instrument that I must care for.” “The things we truly love stay with us always, locked in our hearts as long as life remains.”

Accomplishments and References:

Accomplishments and References Josephine accomplished many things in her lifetime that her children should be proud of. She overcame the limitations imposed by the color of her skin, became one of the world’s most versatile entertainers, performing on stages, screen and recordings. Baker also was decorated for her undercover work for the French resistance during world war 2. She was a civil rights activist and refused to perform for segregated audiences and integrated night clubs in Las Vegas. Also, adopted 12 children naming them the “Rainbow Tribe.” Links:

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