Josephine Baker (3 June 1906 – 12 April 1975)
Born Freda Josephine McDonald. French vedette, singer and entertainer, whose career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adoptive country of France. During her early career she was renowned as a dancer, and was among the most celebrated performers to headline the lavish revues of the Folies Bergère in Paris. Her performance in the revue Un Vent de Folie in 1927 caused a sensation in Paris; her costume, consisting of only a girdle of bananas, became her most iconic image and a symbol of the jazz age and the 1920s. She was celebrated by artists and intellectuals of the era, who variously dubbed her the “Black Pearl”, the “Bronze Venus”, and the “Creole Goddess”. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she renounced her U.S. citizenship and became a French national after her marriage to French industrialist Jean Lion in 1937.
Baker was the first person of African descent to become a world-famous entertainer and to star in a major motion picture, the 1934 Marc Allégret film Zouzou. Baker refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States and is noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. (Wikipedia)
From our stacks: Cover detail from Les mémoires de Joséphine Baker. Recueillis et éditées par Marcel Sauvage. Paris, Corrêa