The things we truly love stay with us always, locked in our hearts as long as life remains. - Josephine Baker (American born entertainer, activist, and French Resistance agent)
Josephine Baker was much more than a "Creole Goddess"She was a world renowned performer, and activist with a successful career every where except her home country, segregated America. As a child Baker would sometimes perform on stage with her entertainer parents whose careers unfortunately never took off. At around 15 she was discovered by an African American dance troupe from Philadelphia while dancing on the streets collecting money from onlookers and moved to New York City. She performed in several productions including 'Shuffle Along', 'Chocolate Dandies' on Broadway and the floor show of the Plantation Club at the height of the Harlem Renaissance.
Her success took her to Paris where she became one of the most sought after performers, her beauty and vitality combined with her her distinct dancing style and unique, elaborate costumes, she gained star billing at the Folies-Bergére. Although her audiences were usually all white Baker's performance style and themes were African influenced.
During her French tour she introduced her famous banana skirt, dancing semi-nude in her performance 'Danse Sauvage'.
She began to sing professionally in 1930, became a French citizen in 1937 and made several films before World War II. When the German Army invaded France she aided French military, passing on secrets she heard while performing in front of the enemy by transporting confidential intelligence, writing information in invisible ink on sheet music. She worked with the Red Cross, entertained troops in Africa and the Middle East as a member of the Free French Forces. Later, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour for her contributions with the rosette of the Resistance.
The United States was much the same, still as segregated as it was when she left St Louis for Europe. Despite being a major star overseas, white American audiences rejected the idea of a black woman, now refined and sophisticated with top billing. Baker often refused to perform for segregated audiences forcing club owners to integrate her shows. Taking this stand brought attention and recognition by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), but she returned to Europe heartsick.
Baker performed onstage late into her life and for the last time in 1975 receiving a standing ovation. She passed away that same year.