Josephine Baker was much more than a successful performer; she was a WWll spy and activist. Baker was one of the most successful French performers at the time. She used her fame and talents to help and support the greater good.

June 3rd 1906, birth name, Freda Josephine McDonald was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Josephine’s mother and father were also performers; unfortunately they did not make it too far. Young Josephine had to find odd jobs to make ends meet and would often preform in the streets of the city, one day at 15 years old she caught the eye of an African American Theater Troupe. Josephine ran off to perform in various places and also got married and taking her husband’s last name, having her new name be, Josephine Baker. Baker was an amazing dancer and stared in several Vaudeville shows, a popular theater genre in the 20th century. Baker moved to New York City to celebrate black life and art, known as the Harlem Renaissance. She stayed in New York for a few years until she moved to Pairs and her performance career really took off. Baker was the most coveted performer because of her unique costumes and individual dancing style. Her performances followed traditional African themes and styles like her famous show Danse Sauvage.

During WWll when the German Army invaded France, Baker joined the fight. She would use invisible ink on music sheets to pass over information to the French military. She got the information because she could hear from the enemy while she was preforming for them. Baker stayed in Paris for many years before returning to the United States, when she got home she had to deal with segregation and discrimination.

While dealing with her own battles with segregation she told many club owners that she would not preform for a segregated audience, usually upsetting the owner and cancelling her shows. Baker was soon recognized by the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People. In 1963 Baker was one of the hardly any women allowed to speak at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. She talked about her life differences living in the United States and living abroad and after the march she continued activism in her daily routine into the 1970’s.

Josephine Baker was a caring, talented, and an amazing activist. While on the road she adopted 13 children from various countries and called her and her family “the rainbow tribe.” She took the children on the road with her to show and teach them the importance of cultural harmony. Josephine Baker passed away on April 12th, 1975. She stayed on stage preforming into the late years of her life and got a standing ovation on her last sold out show.

Sources:

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/josephine-baker