Black Pearl. Bronze Venus. Creole Goddess. These are just some of the names that showgirl, activist, and spy Josephine Baker (1906–1975) was given in her life. Born into poverty in St. Louis, Baker was on her own at thirteen and danced her way onto the chorus lines of Broadway, quickly followed by the Paris revues. She had a pet cheetah named Chiquita who wore a diamond collar and paraded around the stage during her acts. France loved Josephine Baker, and she became a huge star on the stage and screen. Her influence in Europe was so big that the French government asked her to work as a spy for the Allies during World War II—just by socializing as she did at high-level parties with German, Italian, and Japanese officials. She carried secret notes written in invisible ink on her music sheets as she freely toured across borders.
When she returned to America for a performance at a New York club, she was enraged by the segregation laws still in place. She became a civil rights leader and marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., in the March on Washington. She was the only official female speaker that day. After King was assassinated, his widow, Coretta Scott King, asked Baker to lead the movement—but Baker declined, stating that her children were too young to lose their mother. To fulfill her dream of showing the world that people of different ethnicities and religions can live in peace, Baker adopted twelve children from different countries, forming a family she would come to call her “rainbow tribe,” and raised them in her French castle, Château des Milandes.
Model with choice of books to read. Frances Baker’s handprinted fabrics in the A/W 2012 lookbook.
“My ultimate goal is to make clothing that is practical as well as beautiful: simple, comfortable dresses that you can love and wear over and over again. It is these kinds of items that you want to hold onto forever that I try my very best to design for Frances Baker.”
I feel like the character design of Seraphina Picquery is hinting at her being a bisexual. The second I saw those side curls of hers, I was instantly reminded of Josephine Baker as she rocked that iconic look™. And Josephine Baker, in case you didn’t know, was a 20s and 30s era actress-singer-dancer and also a spy for the French Resistance in WW2. Aka, she was the baddest bitch of the era, and also she was hella bi. She hooked up with Frida Kahlo when Frida visited France. Also, Josephine Baker was a civil rights activist. Just, think of all the cool shit ever, and she either was that or could have been that if she tried.
To have Picquery’s character styled similarly seems very telling to me, and it would be an incredibly badass homage to Josephine if likeness of her was made the fucking PRESIDENT of Magical America. That would be crazy awesome. Though it can be annoying to have queer characters as side characters, having Picquery be a non-heterosexual black woman in the 1920s in the most powerful job in America would be really fucking cool, even if she is a side character. It would really show just how different No-Maj America is from the magical version of it.
Elijah Abel- (1808 –1884)- The first African-American elder and seventy in the Latter Day Saint movement, and one of the few black members in the early history of the Latter Day Saint movement to receive the priesthood.
Jordan Anderson- (1825-1907) - A slave who following his emancipation, wrote a letter to his former master offering to work on his plantation. The letter has been described as a rare example of documented “slave humor” of the period and its deadpan style has been compared to the satire of Mark Twain
Josephine Baker- (1906 –1975) - Born in the US but spent most of her life in France, Baker was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, Zouzou (1934), or to become a world-famous entertainer. She assisted the French Resistance in WWII, receiving the Croix de guerre and was made a Chevalier of the Legion d'honneur.
Ebenezer Bassett-(1833–1908)- The first African-American diplomat, serving as US ambassador to Haiti.
Stephen Bishop- (c. 1821–1857)- One of the lead explorers of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system in the world.
Blanche Bruce- (1841 –1898)- The first elected black senator to serve a full term.
Absalom Boston- (1785–1855)- The first African-American captain to sail a whaleship, with an all-black crew.
Melvin “Mel” Boozer-(1945 –1987)- Activist for African American, LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues. In 1980 he became the first openly gay candidate for Vice President of the United States, running on the Socialist ticket.
William Wells Brown- (c.1814-1884)- Wrote Clotel the first novel published by an African American
William Harvey Carney- (1840–1908)- The first African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry during the Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863.
Wentworth Cheswell- (1748 –1817)- The first African American elected to public office in the history of the United States, being elected town constable of Newmarket, New Hampshire in 1768.
Fanny Jackson Coppin- (1837 –1913)- An African-American educator and missionary and a lifelong advocate for female higher education.
Martin Delany- (1818 –1885) Abolitionist, journalist, physician, and writer, and arguably the first proponent of black nationalism. He was one of the first three blacks admitted to Harvard Medical School.
Storm DeLarverie- (1920 –2014)- A butch lesbian whose scuffle with police was one of the defining moments of the Stonewall uprising, spurring the crowd to action. She was nicknamed “the Rosa Parks of the gay community.”
James Derham- (c. 1757-1802?)- The first African American to formally practice medicine in the United States though he never received an M.D. degree.
Father Divine- (c. 1876 –1965)- An African American spiritual leader from about 1907 until his death. Father Divine made numerous contributions toward his followers’ economic independence and racial equality.
Mary Fields- (c. 1832–1914)- The first African-American woman employed as a mail carrier in the United States and the second woman to work for the United States Postal Service.
Henry Ossian Flipper- (1856–1940)- The first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point
Gordon- (dates unknown)- A slave on a Louisiana plantation who made his escape from bondage in March 1863.The pictures of Gordon’s scourged back provided Northerners with visual evidence of brutal treatment of slaves and inspired many free blacks to enlist in the Union Army.
Samuel Green- (c. 1802–1877)- Minister who was jailed in 1857 for possessing a copy of the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Nero Hawley- (1742–1817)- Slave who was enlisted in place of his owner, Daniel Hawley, in the Continental Army on April 20, 1777 during the American Revolution and earned his freedom.
Jupiter Hammon- (1711 – before 1806)- The first African-American writer to be published in the present-day United States. He is considered one of the founders of African-American literature.
Michael A. Healy- (1839 –1904)- Nicknamed “Hell Roaring Mike,” Healy has been identified as the first man of African-American descent to command a ship of the United States government. Healy patrolled the 20,000 miles (32,000 km) of Alaskan coastline for more than 20 years, earning great respect from the natives and seafarers alike.
Hercules- (c. 1755-Unknown)- Slave who worked as a cook for George Washington. Hercules escaped to freedom from Mount Vernon in 1797, and later was legally manumitted under the terms of Washington’s Will.
DeHart Hubbard- (1903 -1976)- The first African American to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event; the running long jump at the 1924 Paris Summer games.
Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori- (1762-1829)- A West African prince who was brought as a slave to the US. After 40 years own slavery, he was freed as a result of negotiations between the Sultan of Morocco and President John Quincy Adams.
Thomas L. Jennings- (1791–1856)- The first African American to be granted a patent for his invention of a dry-cleaning process
Anthony Johnson-(c.1600 –1670) - An Angolan who achieved freedom in the early 17th-century Colony of Virginia, where he became one of the first African American property owners and slaveholders.
Barbara Jordan- (1936 –1996)- The first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives, and the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention.
Henrietta Lacks- (1920-1951) - An African-American woman who was the unwitting source of cells from her cancerous tumor which were cultured to create the first known human immortal cell line for medical research.
Edmond Lewis- (1844 –1907)- The first African-American woman to achieve international acclaim as a sculptor.
Henry Berry Lowrie- (c. 1845-Unknown)- Robin Hood style outlaw who targeted the Confederate government of North Carolina during the US Civil War and the KKK after it. He was never captured although many believe he died of injuries sustained in a 1872 robbery.
Mary Eliza Mahoney- (1845 –1926)- The first African American to study and work as a professionally trained nurse in the United States, graduating in 1879
Jean Saint Malo-(Unknown-1784)- Escaped Spanish slave who led guerrilla attacks against the Colonial Spanish govemrnt of Louisiana
Hattie McDaniel- (1895 –1952)- First African-Americna to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress fro her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind
Doris Miller- (1919 –1943)- The first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross. During the attack on Pearl Harbor Miller, then a cook on the U.S.S West Virginia, manned a gun tower, firing until he ran out of ammunition. He became an icon for African-American serving in the war.
Tom Molineaux- (1784 –1818)- An African-American bare-knuckle boxer. He spent much of his career in Great Britain and Ireland, where he had some notable successes.
P. B. S. Pinchback- (1837 –1921) - The first person of African descent to become governor of a U.S. state, serving as Governor of Louisiana for 15 days.
George Poage- (1880–1962)- The first African-American athlete to win a medal in the Olympic Games, winning two bronze medals at the 1904 games.
Bass Reeves- (1838-1910)- First black Deputy U.S. Marshals who arrested over 3,000 felons and shot and killed fourteen outlaws in self-defense. It is believed that he may have been the inspiration for The Lone Ranger.
Hiram Rhodes Revels- (1827 –1901)- The first African American to serve in the United States Senate, and was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress.
John Rock-(1825–1866)- First African-American man to earn a medical degree and the first black person to be admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. He coined the phrase “Black is Beautiful”
Robert Smalls- (1839 –1915)- Slave who commandeered a Confederate transport ship, CSS Planter, in Charleston harbor, and sailed it from Confederate controlled waters to the U.S. blockade. he was later elected to the South Carolina State legislature and the United States House of Representatives
D. Augustus Straker- (1842-1908)- Barbadian who immigrated to the United States to educate former slaves. In 1890, he became the first Black lawyer to appear before the Michigan Supreme Court, arguing that "separate but equal" was unconstitutional according to Michigan law
Augustus Tolton- (1854-1897) - First African American to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest. In 2011 he was named a “Servant of God” one of the first steps toward sainthood.
Alexander Twilight- (1795–1857) - The first African American elected as a state legislator, serving in the Vermont General Assembly.
Colonel Tye- (c.1753—1780)- New Jerseyan slave who escaped to fight for the British during the American Revolution. He was one of the most effective guerrilla leaders opposing the American rebel forces in central New Jersey.
Moses Fleetwood Walker- (1856 -1924)- The first African American to play Major League Baseball. After leaving baseball, Walker became a businessman and advocate of Black nationalism.
Robert C. Weaver- (1907–1997)- The first African American to be appointed to a US cabinet-level position, serving as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1966-1968.
Phillis Wheatley- (c. 1753 –1784)- The first African-American poet to have her work published.
Cathay Williams- (1844-1892)- The first African-American female to enlist, and the only documented to serve in the United States Army posing as a man, under the pseudonym William Cathay.
Marcos Xiorro-(Unknown-1821)- An African slave who, in 1821, planned and conspired to lead a slave revolt against the sugar plantation owners and the Spanish Colonial government in Puerto Rico. Although the conspiracy was unsuccessful, he achieved legendary status among the slaves and is part of Puerto Rico’s folklore.
York- (1770?–1822?)- Slave who was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. He gained the respect to the rest of the expedition and is believed to have been given his freedom or escaped to freedom following their return the the US.
Euro 2016 is on the horizon, and that means a new batch of football shirts set to be worn in this summer’s European soccer showcase.
Illustrator Sam Baker took this as an opportunity to put his design skills to the test, creating a set of concept kits that reimagine each country’s home and away shirts while adhering to a realistic set of aesthetic parameters and true-to-life brand strategy.
‘I thought I’d explore how the shirts of the Euro 2016 nations could be done differently from the kits we’ll see on show in France this summer’, Baker said. ‘I wanted to put my own ideas into these concepts; I’ve used the same manufacturers as in real life, but have developed my own templates and colour schemes.’
What results is a number of alluring, alternatively styled kits that we’d love to see brought to life.
Baker continues by saying: ‘I was inspired by Nike’s new releases – they’ve come in for a lot of criticism for changing some very iconic kit traditions, and I wanted to put forward a more traditional set of shirts, while still keeping the ideas on show fresh and new.’
You can find all of the reimagined Euro 2016 kits here and more of Sam’s work on his website Red Star Liverpool.
Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother, Carrie McDonald, was a washerwoman who had given up her dreams of becoming a music-hall dancer. Her father, Eddie Carson, was a vaudeville drummer. He abandoned Carrie and Josephine shortly after her birth. Carrie remarried soon thereafter and would have several more children in the coming years.
To help support her growing family, at age 8 Josephine cleaned houses and babysat for wealthy white families, often being poorly treated. She briefly returned to school two years later before running away from home at age 13 and finding work as a waitress at a club. While working there, she married a man named Willie Wells, from whom she divorced only weeks later.
The Path to Paris
It was also around this time that Josephine first took up dancing, honing her skills both in clubs and in street performances, and by 1919 she was touring the United States with the Jones Family Band and the Dixie Steppers performing comedic skits. In 1921, Josephine married a man named Willie Baker, whose name she would keep for the rest of her life despite their divorce years later. In 1923, Baker landed a role in the musical Shuffle Alongas a member of the chorus, and the comic touch that she brought to the part made her popular with audiences. Looking to parlay these early successes, Baker moved to New York City and was soon performing in Chocolate Dandies and, along with Ethel Waters, in the floor show of the Plantation Club, where again she quickly became a crowd favorite.
In 1925, at the peak of France’s obsession with American jazz and all things exotic, Baker traveled to Paris to perform in La Revue Nègre at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. She made an immediate impression on French audiences when, with dance partner Joe Alex, she performed the Danse Sauvage, in which she wore only a feather skirt.
However, it was the following year, at the Folies Bergère music hall, one of the most popular of the era, that Baker’s career would reach a major turning point. In a performance called La Folie du Jour, Baker danced wearing little more than a skirt made of 16 bananas. The show was wildly popular with Parisian audiences and Baker was soon among the most popular and highest-paid performers in Europe, having the admiration of cultural figures like Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and E. E. Cummings and earning herself nicknames like “Black Venus” and “Black Pearl.” She also received more than 1,000 marriage proposals.
Capitalizing on this success, Baker sang professionally for the first time in 1930, and several years later landed film roles as a singer in Zou-Zou andPrincesse Tam-Tam. The money she earned from her performances soon allowed her to purchase an estate in Castelnaud-Fayrac, in the southwest of France. She named the estate Les Milandes, and soon paid to move her family there from St. Louis.
Racism and Resistance
In 1936, riding the wave of popularity she was enjoying in France, Baker returned to the United States to perform in the Ziegfield Follies, hoping to establish herself as a performer in her home country as well. However, she was met with a generally hostile, racist reaction and quickly returned to France, crestfallen at her mistreatment. Upon her return, Baker married French industrialist Jean Lion and obtained citizenship from the country that had embraced her as one of its own.
When World War II erupted later that year, Baker worked for the Red Cross during the occupation of France. As a member of the Free French forces she also entertained troops in both Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps most importantly, however, Baker did work for the French Resistance, at times smuggling messages hidden in her sheet music and even in her underwear. For these efforts, at the war’s end, Baker 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.
Following the war, Baker spent most of her time at Les Milandes with her family. In 1947, she married French orchestra leader Jo Bouillon, and beginning in 1950 began to adopt babies from around the world. She adopted 12 children in all, creating what she referred to as her “rainbow tribe” and her “experiment in brotherhood.” She often invited people to the estate to see these children, to demonstrate that people of different races could in fact live together harmoniously.
Return to the U.S.
During the 1950s, Baker frequently returned to the United States to lend her support to the Civil Rights Movement, participating in demonstrations and boycotting segregated clubs and concert venues. In 1963, Baker participated, alongside Martin Luther King Jr., in the March on Washington, and was among the many notable speakers that day. In honor of her efforts, the NAACP eventually named May 20th “Josephine Baker Day.”
After decades of rejection by her countrymen and a lifetime spent dealing with racism, in 1973 Baker performed at Carnegie Hall in New York and was greeted with a standing ovation. She was so moved by her reception that she wept openly before her audience. The show was a huge success and marked Baker’s comeback to the stage.
In April 1975, Josephine Baker performed at the Bobino Theater in Paris, in the first of a series of performances celebrating the 50th anniversary of her Paris debut. Numerous celebrities were in attendance, including Sophia Loren and Princess Grace of Monaco, who had been a dear friend to Baker for years. Just days later, on April 12, 1975, Baker died in her sleep of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 69.
On the day of her funeral, more than 20,000 people lined the streets of Paris to witness the procession, and the French government honored her with a 21-gun salute, making Baker the first American woman in history to be buried in France with military honors.