Freda Josephine McDonald, better known as Josephine Baker (3 June, 1906), dropped out of school at the age of 12 to pursue a career as a dancer. She later ventured from St. Louis to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance in the early 1920s and became the highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville. Moving abroad, Baker performed at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris appearing on stage nude, winning her instance success at the forefront of the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs or "Art Deco."
Despite Baker's success in Europe starring in three films Siren of the Tropics (1927), Zouzou (1934) and Princesse Tam Tam (1935), a glowing reputation as a singer and the muse of contemporary authors, painters, designers and sculptors (Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso and Christian Dior) she never gained near the reputation in America she had in Europe.
With her rising popularity in France, during World War II Baker avoided the Nazi's harm and instead used this advantage to smuggle intelligence to the resistance in Portugal. She did so by using invisible ink coded within her sheet music. Fidel Castro later invited her to perform at the Teatro Musical de La Habana in 1966. She became the first American-born woman to receive the highest French military honor, the Croix de Guerre.
Baker served as an activist during the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s, protesting against racism, adopting 12 multi-ethnic orphans known as the "Rainbow Tribe, in Las Vegas, Nevade she refused to perfrom for segragated audiences and in 1951 made charges again New York's Stork Club where she was refused services. She also worked with the NAACP and in 1963 spoke at the March on Washington alongside of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Chez Josephine is located at:
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