Josephine Baker (United States/France, 1906-75)

Figure 1.--Here Josephine is with some of her Rainbow Tribe at the Château des Milandes in 1961. This was her manor house in southern France. The children were selected to collect a range of races and to how that people of different races cn live th=ogether jn harmony. Josephine is wearing her World War II uniform. Notice the medals, including some of France's highest military awards.

Josephine Baker is a fascinating and engaging figure with a huge heart and great courage that entered some of the most difficult strugles of the 20th century. She was a talented singer an dancer, rather excentric, but added aittle spice to life and made a difference. Josephine was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri (1906). She grew up in poverty. Her mother, Carrie McDonald, was a washerwoman who had given up her dreams of becoming a music-hall dancer Josephine was rescued by her skill and talent. She learned to dance and found success on Broadway, the first female black entertainer we know of to do so. There were limits to what blacks could accomplish in America, even black entertiners. She moved to France after World War I (1920s. She memmerized the French and quickly became one of Europe's most popular and highest-paid performers--some thing she could not have achieved in America at the time. At the onset of World War II she began working for the Red Cross, but was recruited as an agent by the French military intelligence service. She gathered intelligence at embassy parties. She remained in France after the German invasion. Unlike many French movie and other entertiners, she secretly worked for the Resistance, an incredible act of courage. She is reported to have smuggled messages hidden in her sheet music and even in her underwear. She left Paris and helped shelter Free French sumpthtizers. He role as an entertiner gave her a cover to travel extensively. She probbly wisely went to Vichy Noth Africa. After the Torch Invasion, sh entertined Free French troops. Baker after the war was awarded both the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour with the rosette of the Resistance, two of France’s highest military honors. Baker during the 1950s and 60s devoted herself to fighting segregation and racism in the United States. She adopted children after the war to prove that racial harmony was possible, 12 children from around the globe. She called them her Rainbow Tribe. Unfortuntely her nterest was not always in the children personally. She charged admission to watch them coexist. She began a stage comeback (1973). She died of a cerebral hemorrhage and was buried with full French military honors (1975).


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main World War II A-L page]
[Return to the Main Bio A-B page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: 9:48 AM 12/4/2015
Last updated: 9:48 AM 12/4/2015