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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine Macdonald in St. Louis on June 3, 1906. She was nicknamed "Trumpy" as a child.

Baker dropped out of school at the age of 12 and lived as a street child in the slums of St. Louis; by the age of fifteen she was playing vaudeville.

It was at the Folies Bergere, in 1925, that Josephine Baker first performed her famous banana dance. She quickly became a favorite of the French, and her fame grew.

Josephine Baker dancing the Charleston, 1926

The first black superstar, Baker was the first African American female to star in a major motion picture, and to integrate an American concert hall.

Josephine Baker once had a rejected (and dejected) suitor kill himself at her feet. 

Pablo Picasso said of her: "Tall, coffee skin, ebony eyes, legs of paradise, a smile to end all smiles."

Georges Simenon, the Belgium author and inventor of Inspector "Maigret" had a short relationship with Josephine in 1925. He couldn't stand it however that she was more in the spotlight then him, and called himself "Mr. Josephine".

Baker had 12 children through adoption. She bore only one child herself, stillborn in 1941, an incident which precipitated an emergency hysterectomy.

Baker’s affection for France was so great that when World War II broke out, she volunteered to spy for her adopted country. She assisted the French Resistance during the war, and became the first American-born woman to receive the French military honor, the Croix de guerre.

Baker was noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States (she was offered the unofficial leadership of the movement by Coretta Scott King in 1968 following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, but turned it down).

Baker had a veritable menagerie of animals at her Paris home including a snake (which she wore like a necklace) and a cheetah named Chiquita, which accompanied Josephine on walks down the Champs-Elysees, on a lead with a diamond-studded collar.

Among her nicknames were Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", and the "Créole Goddess."

Josephine Baker in Havana, Cuba, 1950

Josephine Baker died in Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, aged 68, on April 12, 1975 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. She received a full Roman Catholic funeral which was held at L'Église de la Madeleine and was the only American-born woman to receive full French military honors at her funeral, After a family service at Saint-Charles Church in Monte Carlo, Baker was interred at Monaco's Cimetière de Monaco.

Here are two songs about Josephine Baker:

Josephine Baker by Al Stewart

Josephine Baker by Sailor

Source Wikipedia

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