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Friday, February 3, 2012

Josephine Baker

June 3, 1906 - April 12, 1975

Born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri. The name Baker came from her second husband, Willie Baker, whom she married at age 15. Surviving the 1917 riots in East St. Louis, Josephine Baker ran away a few years later. At age thirteen and began dancing in vaudeville and on Broadway. In 1925, Josephine Baker went to Paris. La Revue Nègre failed, but her comic ability and jazz dancing drew attention of the director of the Folies Bergère. Becoming virtually an instant hit! Josephine Baker is one of the best-known entertainers in both France and much of Europe. Her exotic, sensual act reinforced the creative images coming out of the Harlem Renaissance in America.

In 1951 in the United States, Josephine Baker was refused service at the famous Stork Club in New York City. Josephine Baker responded by crusading for racial equality, refusing to entertain in any club or theater that was not integrated, and thereby breaking the color bar at many establishments. In 1963, she spoke at the March on Washington at the side of Martin Luther King, Jr.