Josephine Baker
U.S.-born French actress, singer, dancer; World War II French Resistance volunteer
Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker was a dancer, singer, and actress who found fame in her adopted homeland of France. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she renounced her American citizenship in 1937 to become French. She was given such nicknames as the "Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", and the "Créole Goddess". Baker was the first African American female to star in a major motion picture, to integrate an American concert hall, and to become a world-famous entertainer.
Biography
Josephine Baker's personal information overview.
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News
News abour Josephine Baker from around the web
Flagler doctor helps fill Medicaid gap for women - Daytona Beach News-Journal
Google News - over 5 years
She's decorated her walls with posters of notable "Women who dared," such as Josephine Baker and Eleanor Roosevelt. She vows that visiting with her patients is going to be more than a 10-minute undertaking. "My goal is to achieve a safe,
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Kiss Me Deadly A/W 2011 Sneak Peek - StyleBistro
Google News - over 5 years
Catherine told me that spies were the inspiration for this season, and as you can see, Josephine Baker, Mata Hari, and Tokyo Rose all make cameo appearances. What's your favorite look? I'm a big fan of the sheer black high-waisted knicker myself
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Pauline’s still high kicking at 90 - The Visitor
Google News - over 5 years
With more than 80 years' experience on the stage, Pauline has quite literally danced her way around the world, brushing shoulders with the likes of Josephine Baker and entertaining the troops during World War II. “I've always been interested in dancing
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Enjoying A Quick Stop In New York - Huffington Post
Google News - over 5 years
A homage to Josephine Baker, curated by her son, Josephine's gorgeous portraits line the walls of the parisian brasserie allowing for a truly exquisite taste of Paris! (A Chez Josephine! postcard from the restaurant) (Josephine's portraits line the
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March on Washington had one female speaker: Josephine Baker - Washington Post
Google News - over 5 years
Josephine Baker is perhaps best remembered as a glamorous showgirl in 1920s and '30s Paris who mothballed her skimpy costumes to serve in the French Resistance before becoming an international superstar
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Book Review: 'The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris' by David McCullough - Florida Times-Union
Google News - over 5 years
Literature lovers can tell you that in the 1920s American writers enjoyed the weak franc and free-flowing wine while St. Louis native Josephine Baker dazzled Paris nightclub crowds. But the 19th century? Stateside feats of the Frenchmen Audubon and de
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Woody Allen movie inspires a search for Paris of yesteryear - NorthJersey.com
Google News - over 5 years
"So this is Paris," Josephine Baker said when she arrived in the French capital in 1925. The American entertainer was 19. This Paris was a world where a poor black girl could arrive at the Gare Saint Lazare and a year later have her
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Charter board close to picking exec director - Washington Post (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
The DC Public Charter School Board is wrapping up its search for a successor to executive director Josephine Baker. Two sources familiar with the process --who asked for anonymity because they don't want to tick off the board--say three
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'The Josephine Baker Story' Coming To Blu-ray DVD - Indie Wire (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
We try as hard as we can to stay on top of things, but occasionally something will slip by us… like this: last week it was announced that the 1991 HBO film The Josephine Baker Story, starring Lynn Whitfield , will be released on blu-ray DVD;
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Youth herald luxury's new path - Melbourne Weekly Bayside
Google News - over 5 years
The Josephine Baker soundtrack of Je Suis Snob (I'm snobbish) perhaps gave some indication as to why. His guest list last week was made up of tastemakers including Donatella Versace and Sofia Coppola and Alaia closed the four-day couture season to a
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The forgotten century of Americans in Paris - Vancouver Sun
Google News - over 5 years
That storied period, peopled by Aaron Copland to Alexander Calder, Scott Fitzgerald to Henry Miller, Cole Porter to Josephine Baker -and many more in diverse pursuits -has almost come to define the very notion of the Yankee abroad over the ages
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SPECIAL REPORT: FASHION; Alaïa Opens Up His Universe
NYTimes - over 5 years
PARIS -- Dragged shyly from backstage by Frédéric Mitterrand, the French culture minister, Azzedine Alaïa emerged briefly at the end of a 10-minute standing ovation. The designer, whose intense and personal work is the nearest to the original spirit of Parisienne couture, closed the autumn 2011 season after eight years off the runway. The track
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Alaïa Opens Up His Universe - New York Times
Google News - over 5 years
The track of Josephine Baker singing “Je suis snob” summed up perfectly what makes Mr. Alaïa stand out — and stand apart — from the rest of fashion. His clear vision, his precise cut and remarkable workmanship will not be tweeted across the
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Martha D. Key - Staunton News Leader
Google News - over 5 years
She was born Oct. 11, 1928, in Rockingham County, a daughter of the late James Quinter Diehl and Margaret Josephine Baker Diehl. She was a longtime member of Main Street United Methodist Church. She was a volunteer at Waynesboro Public Library
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St. Louis Walk of Fame is an educational walk - KSDK
Google News - over 5 years
These days you'll find more than 125 stars and plaques, which means everyone from Chuck Berry and Nelly, to John Goodman and Josephine Baker, are being walked on daily. "Someone can read about Josephine Baker and find out that she was penniless and
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Floating pool proposed in NYC's East River - UPI.com
Google News - over 5 years
There are other floating pools around the world, such as La Piscine Josephine Baker in Paris and Badeschiff in Berlin, but neither functions the way the "+Pool" would, the New York Daily News reported Saturday. The pool would ideally go at the base of
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Josephine Baker
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1975
    Age 68
    On 8 April 1975, Baker starred in a retrospective revue at the Bobino in Paris, Joséphine à Bobino 1975, celebrating her 50 years in show business.
    More Details Hide Details The revue, financed notably by Prince Rainier, Princess Grace, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, 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, Mick Jagger, Shirley Bassey, Diana Ross, and Liza Minnelli.
  • 1968
    Age 61
    Baker was back on stage at the Olympia in Paris in 1968, in Belgrade in 1973, at Carnegie Hall in 1973, at the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in 1974, and at the Gala du Cirque in Paris in 1974.
    More Details Hide Details
    In 1968 she was offered unofficial leadership in the movement in the United States by Coretta Scott King, following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.
    More Details Hide Details Baker turned down the offer. She was also known for assisting the French Resistance during World War II, and received the French military honor, the Croix de guerre and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur by General Charles de Gaulle. She was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Carrie McDonald. Josephine was nicknamed "Trumpy" as a child. Her estate identifies vaudeville drummer Eddie Carson as her natural father; Carson abandoned Josephine and her mother. Carrie McDonald and Eddie Carson had a song-and-dance act, playing wherever they could get work. When Josephine was about a year old they began to carry her onstage occasionally during their finale. She was further exposed to show business at an early age because her childhood neighborhood was home to many vaudeville theaters that doubled as movie houses. These venues included the Jazzland, Booker T. Washington, and Comet Theatres.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1964
    Age 57
    In her later years, Baker converted to Roman Catholicism. In 1964, Baker lost her castle due to unpaid debts; after, Princess Grace offered her an apartment in Roquebrune, near Monaco.
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  • 1963
    Age 56
    In 1963, she spoke at the March on Washington at the side of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Baker was the only official female speaker.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1951
    Age 44
    Baker worked with the NAACP. Her reputation as a crusader grew to such an extent that the NAACP had Sunday, May 20, 1951 declared "Josephine Baker Day."
    More Details Hide Details She was presented with life membership with the NAACP by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Ralph Bunche. The honor she was paid spurred her to further her crusading efforts with the "Save Willie McGee" rally after he was convicted of the 1948 beating death of a furniture shop owner in Trenton, New Jersey. As Baker became increasingly regarded as controversial, many blacks began to shun her, fearing that her reputation would hurt their cause.
    In 1951, Baker made charges of racism against Sherman Billingsley's Stork Club in Manhattan, where she alleged that she had been refused service.
    More Details Hide Details Actress Grace Kelly, 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 (although she returned on 3 January 1956 with Prince Rainier of Monaco). The two women became close friends after the incident. When Baker was near bankruptcy, Kelly offered her a villa and financial assistance (Kelly by then was princess consort of Rainier III of Monaco). (However, during his work on the Stork Club book, author and New York Times reporter Ralph Blumenthal was contacted by Jean-Claude Baker, one of Baker's sons. Having read a Blumenthal-written story about Leonard Bernstein'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.)
    In 1951 Baker was invited back to the United States for a nightclub engagement in Miami.
    More Details Hide Details After winning a public battle over desegregating the club's audience, Baker followed up her sold-out run at the club with a national tour. Rave reviews and enthusiastic audiences accompanied her everywhere, climaxed by a parade in front of 100,000 people in Harlem in honor of her new title: NAACP's "Woman of the Year." Her future looked bright, with six months of bookings and promises of many more to come. An incident at the Stork Club interrupted and overturned her plans. Baker criticized the club's unwritten policy of discouraging black patrons, then scolded columnist Walter Winchell, an old ally, for not rising to her defense. Winchell responded swiftly with a series of harsh public rebukes, including accusations of Communist sympathies (a serious charge at the time). The ensuing publicity resulted in the termination of Baker's work visa, forcing her to cancel all her engagements and return to France. It was almost a decade before US officials allowed her back into the country.
  • 1949
    Age 42
    In 1949, a reinvented Baker returned in triumph to the Folies Bergere.
    More Details Hide Details Bolstered by recognition of her wartime heroics, Baker the performer assumed a new gravitas, unafraid to take on serious music or subject matter. The engagement was a rousing success, and reestablished Baker as one of Paris' preeminent entertainers.
  • 1947
    Age 40
    She married French composer and conductor Jo Bouillon in 1947, but their union also ended in divorce.
    More Details Hide Details She was later involved for a time with the artist Robert Brady, but they never married. During Baker's work with the Civil Rights Movement, she began adopting children, forming a family she often referred to as "The Rainbow Tribe". Baker wanted to prove that "children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers." She often took the children with her cross-country, and when they were at Château des Milandes, she arranged tours so visitors could walk the grounds and see how natural and happy the children in "The Rainbow Tribe" were. Baker raised two daughters, French-born Marianne and Moroccan-born Stellina, and 10 sons, Korean-born Jeannot (or Janot), Japanese-born Akio, Colombian-born Luis, Finnish-born Jari (now Jarry), French-born Jean-Claude 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 the château in Dordogne, France, with her fourth husband, Jo Bouillon.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1941
    Age 34
    Later in 1941, she and her entourage went to the French colonies in North Africa.
    More Details Hide Details The stated reason was Baker's health (since she 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. She pinned notes with the information she gathered inside her underwear (counting on her celebrity to avoid a strip search). She befriended the Pasha of Marrakech, whose support helped her through a miscarriage (the last of several). After the miscarriage, she developed an infection so severe it required a hysterectomy. The infection spread and she developed peritonitis and then septicemia. After her recovery (which she continued to fall in and out of), she started touring to entertain British, French, and American soldiers in North Africa. The Free French had no organized entertainment network for their troops, so Baker and her friends managed for the most part on their own. They allowed no civilians and charged no admission.
  • 1939
    Age 32
    In September 1939, when France declared war on Germany in response to the invasion of Poland, Baker was recruited by Deuxième Bureau, French military intelligence, as an "honorable correspondent".
    More Details Hide Details Baker collected what information she could about German troop locations from officials she met at parties. She specialized in gatherings at embassies and ministries, charming people as she had always done, while gathering information. Her café-society fame enabled her to rub shoulders with those in the know, from high-ranking Japanese officials to Italian bureaucrats, and to report back what she heard. She attended parties at the Italian embassy without raising suspicions and gathered information. When the Germans invaded France, Baker left Paris and went to the Château des Milandes, her home in the south of France. She housed friends who were eager to help the Free French effort led by Charles de Gaulle and supplied them with visas. As an entertainer, Baker had an excuse for moving around Europe, visiting neutral nations such as Portugal, as well as some in South America. She carried information for transmission to England, about airfields, harbors, and German troop concentrations in the West of France. Notes were written in invisible ink on Baker's sheet music.
  • 1937
    Age 30
    In 1937, Baker married Frenchman Jean Lion.
    More Details Hide Details She became a French citizen and became a permanent expatriate. She and Lion separated in 1940. Jean Lion died in 1957 of Spanish Flu.
    Baker returned to Paris in 1937, married a Jewish Frenchman, Jean Lion, and became a French citizen.
    More Details Hide Details They were married in the French town of Crèvecœur-le-Grand, in a wedding presided over by mayor Jammy Schmidt.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1936
    Age 29
    Despite her popularity in France, Baker never attained the equivalent reputation in America. Her star turn in a 1936 revival of Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway generated less than impressive box office numbers, and later in the run, she was replaced by Gypsy Rose Lee.
    More Details Hide Details Time magazine referred to her as a "Negro wench whose dancing and singing might be topped anywhere outside of Paris", while other critics said her voice was "too thin" and "dwarf-like" to fill the Winter Garden Theatre. She returned to Europe heartbroken. This contributed to Baker's becoming a legal citizen of France and giving up her American citizenship.
  • 1934
    Age 27
    In 1934, she took the lead in a revival of Jacques Offenbach's opera La créole, which premiered in December of that year for a six-month run at the Théâtre Marigny on the Champs-Élysées of Paris.
    More Details Hide Details In preparation for her performances, she went through months of training with a vocal coach. In the words of Shirley Bassey, 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."
  • TEENAGE
  • 1925
    Age 18
    In 1925 she began an extramarital relationship with the Belgian novelist Georges Simenon.
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    Baker sailed to Paris, France, for a new venture, and opened in La Revue Nègre on October 2, 1925, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.
    More Details Hide Details In Paris, she became an instant success for her erotic dancing, and for appearing practically nude onstage. After a successful tour of Europe, she broke her contract and returned to France to star at the Folies Bergère, setting the standard for her future acts. Baker 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", and also with a renewal of interest in non-Western 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, Chiquita, who was adorned with a diamond collar. The cheetah frequently escaped into the orchestra pit, where it terrorized the musicians, adding another element of excitement to the show.
    Although she left Willie Baker when her vaudeville troupe was booked into a New York City venue and divorced him in 1925, it was during this time she began to see significant career success, and she continued to use his last name professionally for the rest of her life.
    More Details Hide Details Although Baker returned after traveling with gifts and money for her mother and younger half-sister, the turmoil of the relationship with her mother pushed her to make a trip to France. Baker’s talent was ridiculed so harshly in the United States she decided not to go to her sister’s funeral in St. Louis. Instead Baker opted to send money to cover the funeral expenses. Josephine's street-corner dancing attracted attention, leading to her being recruited for the St. Louis Chorus vaudeville show at the age of 15. She headed to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, performing at the Plantation Club and in the chorus of the groundbreaking and hugely successful Broadway revues Shuffle Along (1921) with Adelaide Hall and The Chocolate Dandies (1924). She performed as the last dancer in a chorus line. Traditionally the dancer in this position performed in a comic manner, as if she were unable to remember the dance, until the encore, at which point she would perform it not only correctly but with additional complexity. Baker was billed at the time as "the highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville".
  • 1921
    Age 14
    Another short-lived marriage followed to Willie Baker in 1921; she retained Baker's last name because her career began taking off during that time, and it was the name by which she became best known.
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    In Baker’s teen years she struggled to have a healthy relationship with her mother, Carrie McDonald. McDonald did not want Josephine to become an entertainer, and she scolded Baker for not tending to her second husband, Willie Baker, whom she had married in 1921 at age 15.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1906
    Born
    Born on June 3, 1906.
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