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Josephine Baker

Real name: Frida Josephine McDonald
Birthdate: June 3, 1906
Status: N/A
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Josephine Baker (or Joséphine Baker in francophone countries) (June 3, 1906 – April 12, 1975) is one of the world's most beloved entertainers. She was an American-born French expatriate who later became a French citizen. Baker was most noted as a singer, though in her early career she was a celebrated dancer (she is often credited as a movie star, although she only starred in 3 films in her early career). She was given the nicknames "Black Venus" or "Black Pearl" and "Créole Goddess" in anglophone nations, while in France she was known in the old theatrical tradition as "La Baker". She became a citizen of France in 1937. She is also noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America, and for being an inspiration to generations of African-American female entertainers. After retiring from her entertainment career, Baker adopted her "rainbow tribe" - 12 orphans of different ethnicities and nationalities

After a short while she was the most successful American entertainer working in France — whereas in the U.S., she would have suffered the racial prejudices common to the era. Ernest Hemingway 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 Siren of the Tropics (1927), Zouzou (1934) and Princesse Tamtam (1935). Although Josephine Baker is often credited as a movie star, her starring roles ended with Princesse Tamtam in 1935.Baker costumed for the Danse banane from the Folies Bergère production "Un Vent de Folie" in Paris in 1927

Baker was so well known and popular with the French that even the Nazis, who occupied France during World War II, were hesitant to cause her harm. In turn, this allowed Baker to show loyalty to her adopted country by participating in the Underground, smuggling intelligence to the resistance in Portugal coded within her sheet music. After the war, for her underground activity, Baker was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Légion d'Honneur by General Charles de Gaulle, and also the Rosette of the Résistance.

She refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States. Her insistence on mixed audiences helped to integrate shows in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevertheless she was near bankruptcy until she was given an apartment and financial assistance by her close friend, Princess Grace of Monaco, another expatriate American living in Europe.

She also worked with the NAACP. In 1963, she spoke at the March on Washington at the side of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Wearing her Free French uniform with her Legion of Honor decoration, she was the only woman to speak at the rally. After King's assassination his widow, Coretta Scott King, 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, stating that her children were " ... too young to lose their mother."


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