A dancer, singer, activist and spy, Josephine Baker was a star and a hero. Baker grew up poor, but her rocky start did not hold her back from success. Baker had major achievements for a black woman in her time; she was the first African-American to star in a major film. Baker was first to integrate a concert in Las Vegas. Even though Baker got her start during the Harlem Renaissance, her true claim to fame was her success in France. She was the first black woman to receive military honor in France.
Since Baker was so successful in Europe, she was able to spy for the French resistance during World War II. Although Baker was very successful in France and had found success during the Harlem Renaissance, she was not welcomed in the United States due to segregation and racism. Racism did not stop Baker from being a part of the Harlem Renaissance.
Josephine Baker was born to Carrie McDonald, in St. Louis, MO on June 3, 1906. The situation on who Baker’s father is up to debate, it is rumored that Eddie Carson was her father. Eddie Carson was a drummer and had an entertainment act with Baker’s mother. At birth, Baker’s name was Freda Josephine McDonald. (Robinson) Later, Baker changed her name when she got into the entertainment business.
In her youth, Baker was always poorly dressed and hungry; she started working at the age of 8 years old. (Whitaker 64) She worked as domestic help for a white family; the woman of the house was reportedly abusive to Baker. At the age of 12, Baker dropped out of school. After Baker dropped out of school, she became homeless. (Wood 241–318)While living on the streets, Baker only 13 years old, married Willie Wells. The couple divorced shortly after their marriage.
- (Josephine Baker History) Again, Baker be. .n, Susan. “Josephine Baker.” Josephine Baker. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.
- Lewis, Jone J. “Josephine Baker.” About.com Women’s History. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.
- Williams, Iain Cameron. Underneath a Harlem Moon: The Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall. London: Continuum, 2002.
- Cullen, Frank, Florence Hackman, and Donald McNeilly. Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. New York: Routledge, 2007. Print.”AllMusic.” AllMusic. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.
- Shaffer, Ann. “Josephine Baker: A Centenary Tribute | Blackgrooves.org.” Josephine Baker: A Centenary Tribute | Blackgrooves.org. Black Grooves, 4 Oct. 2006. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.