Josephine Baker is my favorite Vaudeville/Burlesque star. She lived her life by her passion, dance. In a time where segregation was the norm in America she was able to leave with a traveling troupe and perform her way to being discovered. She went to Paris where she was welcomed with open arms and became a star. She’s the first black woman to have been a part of previously segregated dance troupes. The US was still not fond of her performances like Paris was and they degraded her performance when she tried to win America over. She returned to France.
Yes, that is a real leopard she’s with, it was her pet named Chiquita. I mean wow!
Greatful to Parisians for welcoming her with such gusto and making her a star and changing her life she joined the Red Cross to give soup for the Parisian poor and was a spy for France! She helped with the war with the information she was able to gain! She wrote down what she eavesdropped from Nazi officials and wrote it in invisible ink on her sheet music which she put in her underwear to bring home to France! Ha! What a woman!
She continued spying even while sick. She made a recovery and stayed with American soldiers living in the same conditions as they were suffering to perform for them. She commanded black soldiers be allowed to sit up front as well.
She became a hero helping France, US and allies win the war with the information she found. She was awarded Franc’es highest honor the Legion D’Honneur!
She also was at one point a stunt pilot! She had adopted 12 children all of different ethincities to show the world that segregation of color was unnatural. She raised them each with their original religions. They all lived in a castle in Paris until her late years where her lavish living caught up and set them in poverty. At 67 she was finally received beautifully in Carnegie Hall NYC! She was back on top. She passed away the way she wished ‘breathless, spent at the end of a dance.’
I am so moved by this Burlesque performer. I enjoyed her since I heard of her, and now I’m just so completely in awe after reading about her. Josephine Baker. Amazing.
The book is ‘Josephine’ y Patricial Hruby Powell illustrated by Christian Robinson. Simple, powerful, inspiring.