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Josephine Baker

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Josephine Baker Famous memorial Veteran

Original Name
Freda Josephine McDonald
Birth
Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA
Death
12 Apr 1975 (aged 68)
Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
Burial
Monaco-Ville, Monaco GPS-Latitude: 43.7287223, Longitude: 7.4116175
Plot
Géranium
Memorial ID
View Source
Singer, Civil Rights Activist. Josephine Baker was easily one of the most successful Black women of her time. Born Freda Josephine McDonald, she was reared in a fatherless poverty in the rat-infested slums of St. Louis, Missouri. With little formal education, she married for the first time at the age of thirteen to William Wells, and again in 1921 to William Baker, the surname she used for the rest of her life. Her means for escaping from this poverty was her beauty, singing, comedic and dancing abilities, which powered her rise to American fame in the "Chocolate Dandies" on Broadway as a teenager. Tiring of performing in demeaning minstrel reviews, at the age of nineteen, she took the chance of a career in Paris, where the Jazz Age had fueled interest in the then sensual and exotic African-American culture. Helping to bring the dance of the era, the "Charleston," to Paris, she became one of the most popular entertainers in Europe. Her risqué dance routines with the lack of significant covering in her costumes received greater appreciation in Europe, than in the more conservative United States. Her contemporaries of the time all came under the spell of "La Baker," including Ernest Hemingway, e. e. cummings, Gertrude Stein and Picasso. Successfully, she branched from the stage to cinema. Ahead of her time, she believed her fame in France would translate not only to a triumphant return to the United States, but could influence the deep seeded racial tensions back home for the better. Despite top billing in the Ziegfeld Follies with Fanny Brice and Bob Hope, she ran straight into racism time and again, not only in the segregated South, but elsewhere. She was barred from using public rooms at her hotels and, most famously, was refused service at the legendary Stork Club in New York City. She fought back, refusing to perform in clubs that did not allow integrated seating, most notably in Miami, Atlanta and Las Vegas, and ultimately renouncing her American citizenship in 1937 for a French one. Things got nasty when she came under federal investigation for Communist activities during the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s; as with many other victims of McCarthyism, the allegations against her were never substantiated. Undaunted, she was one of many celebrity speakers at the March on Washington for Civil Rights in August of 1963. Her fights not only involved civil rights. During World War II, she became a highly decorated veteran for her adopted country, serving in French Resistance against Nazi Germany. Using her celebrity as a cover to act as a spy, she carried sensitive documents to neutral countries and allied strongholds, sometimes using invisible ink on sheet music, and performed for allied soldiers in North Africa. She married five times, yet bore no children. She and her last husband adopted 10 boys and 2 girls of various ethnicities, who came to be famous as her "Rainbow Tribe." A declining career combined with managing a growing family with little parenting skills overstressed her health and her finances, which resulted in her last divorce in 1961, a heart attack in 1964 and the humiliating 1969 eviction from her home. Her home consisted of a 15th century chateau in the South of France called Les Milandes, which had included a gold piano and a bed once owned by Marie Antionette. Her children had a dormitory-like facility on the top floor. In addition to the chateau, her property had a motel, a bakery, cafés, a jazz club, a miniature golf course, a zoo-like with wild cats. and a wax museum telling the story of Baker's life. There was a host of staff managing the estate including nannies and tutors for the children, cooks and maids for the house, gardeners, a chauffeur, and other staff members. After she was removed from the chateau by force, Princess Grace of Monaco came to her rescue and financed an apartment for her and the remaining teenage children. Forever the fighter, Josephine Baker mounted her 1974 comeback in New York City with a week of sold-out performances, "An Evening with Josephine Baker." Though not her last words, her famous response to one 15-minute ovation was "Now I can die." On April 10, 1975, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, becoming comatose, never regaining consciousness and dying two days later. As a French citizen and a veteran of World War II, she received full French military honors at her funeral, with fans blocking the streets of Paris one last time before she was laid to rest in Monaco. In 1961 she was awarded the Legion of Honor, France's highest award. Her story was told in the made-for-TV film, "The Josephine Baker Story." She was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame on May 20, 1990 and the Hall of Famous Missourians on March 29, 1995. In her honor, a United States commemorative postage stamp celebrating Vintage Black Cinema was issued July 16, 2008. Although she had planned careers for each of her "Rainbow Tribe," her plans were abandoned with the lack of funding. Several of children returned to their country of origin to live a simple life. On August 24, 2021, it was announced that Josephine Baker would be honored at thePantheon Mausoleum in Paris.
Singer, Civil Rights Activist. Josephine Baker was easily one of the most successful Black women of her time. Born Freda Josephine McDonald, she was reared in a fatherless poverty in the rat-infested slums of St. Louis, Missouri. With little formal education, she married for the first time at the age of thirteen to William Wells, and again in 1921 to William Baker, the surname she used for the rest of her life. Her means for escaping from this poverty was her beauty, singing, comedic and dancing abilities, which powered her rise to American fame in the "Chocolate Dandies" on Broadway as a teenager. Tiring of performing in demeaning minstrel reviews, at the age of nineteen, she took the chance of a career in Paris, where the Jazz Age had fueled interest in the then sensual and exotic African-American culture. Helping to bring the dance of the era, the "Charleston," to Paris, she became one of the most popular entertainers in Europe. Her risqué dance routines with the lack of significant covering in her costumes received greater appreciation in Europe, than in the more conservative United States. Her contemporaries of the time all came under the spell of "La Baker," including Ernest Hemingway, e. e. cummings, Gertrude Stein and Picasso. Successfully, she branched from the stage to cinema. Ahead of her time, she believed her fame in France would translate not only to a triumphant return to the United States, but could influence the deep seeded racial tensions back home for the better. Despite top billing in the Ziegfeld Follies with Fanny Brice and Bob Hope, she ran straight into racism time and again, not only in the segregated South, but elsewhere. She was barred from using public rooms at her hotels and, most famously, was refused service at the legendary Stork Club in New York City. She fought back, refusing to perform in clubs that did not allow integrated seating, most notably in Miami, Atlanta and Las Vegas, and ultimately renouncing her American citizenship in 1937 for a French one. Things got nasty when she came under federal investigation for Communist activities during the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s; as with many other victims of McCarthyism, the allegations against her were never substantiated. Undaunted, she was one of many celebrity speakers at the March on Washington for Civil Rights in August of 1963. Her fights not only involved civil rights. During World War II, she became a highly decorated veteran for her adopted country, serving in French Resistance against Nazi Germany. Using her celebrity as a cover to act as a spy, she carried sensitive documents to neutral countries and allied strongholds, sometimes using invisible ink on sheet music, and performed for allied soldiers in North Africa. She married five times, yet bore no children. She and her last husband adopted 10 boys and 2 girls of various ethnicities, who came to be famous as her "Rainbow Tribe." A declining career combined with managing a growing family with little parenting skills overstressed her health and her finances, which resulted in her last divorce in 1961, a heart attack in 1964 and the humiliating 1969 eviction from her home. Her home consisted of a 15th century chateau in the South of France called Les Milandes, which had included a gold piano and a bed once owned by Marie Antionette. Her children had a dormitory-like facility on the top floor. In addition to the chateau, her property had a motel, a bakery, cafés, a jazz club, a miniature golf course, a zoo-like with wild cats. and a wax museum telling the story of Baker's life. There was a host of staff managing the estate including nannies and tutors for the children, cooks and maids for the house, gardeners, a chauffeur, and other staff members. After she was removed from the chateau by force, Princess Grace of Monaco came to her rescue and financed an apartment for her and the remaining teenage children. Forever the fighter, Josephine Baker mounted her 1974 comeback in New York City with a week of sold-out performances, "An Evening with Josephine Baker." Though not her last words, her famous response to one 15-minute ovation was "Now I can die." On April 10, 1975, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, becoming comatose, never regaining consciousness and dying two days later. As a French citizen and a veteran of World War II, she received full French military honors at her funeral, with fans blocking the streets of Paris one last time before she was laid to rest in Monaco. In 1961 she was awarded the Legion of Honor, France's highest award. Her story was told in the made-for-TV film, "The Josephine Baker Story." She was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame on May 20, 1990 and the Hall of Famous Missourians on March 29, 1995. In her honor, a United States commemorative postage stamp celebrating Vintage Black Cinema was issued July 16, 2008. Although she had planned careers for each of her "Rainbow Tribe," her plans were abandoned with the lack of funding. Several of children returned to their country of origin to live a simple life. On August 24, 2021, it was announced that Josephine Baker would be honored at thePantheon Mausoleum in Paris.

Bio by: Linda Davis



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: Oct 30, 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID:
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6789/josephine-baker: accessed ), memorial page for Josephine Baker (3 Jun 1906–12 Apr 1975), Find a Grave Memorial ID 6789, citing Cimetière de Monaco, Monaco-Ville, Monaco; Maintained by Find a Grave.