Essay about A Biography of Josephine Baker

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A Biography of Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine MacDonald in St. Louis, Missouri to her unwed parents: Carrie McDonald and Eddie Carson. Her father soon left the family and Josephine had to help her mother support herself and her three younger half-siblings. At age eight, she got a job working as a maid for a white family (Robinson). At age 12, she had dropped out of school to work. By age 14, she had moved out, been married, and separated from her first husband. She would later go onto marry and divorce three more men. Never was she financially dependent on any man, including her husbands.

Her stage career began in 1919 in the United States when she toured with The Jones Family Band and
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In 1936, Josephine attempted a return to the United States to star in the Ziegfield Follies. Due to the still prevalent racism in the United States, she was greeted with negative reviews. Americans were not yet ready to embrace a black woman as sophisticated and powerful, despite her success in Europe (About).

Just a few years later, World War II spread across Europe. Josephine helped out France in every way she could: performing for troops, being an honorable correspondent for the French Resistance (smuggling secret messages), and serving as a sub-lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (About). For her efforts, she was later awarded the Medal of the Resistance with Rosette and dubbed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government.

In the 50s and 60s, Josephine returned to the United States to help fight racism. She refused to perform in any club or theatre that was not integrated (Lewis). This resulted in the breaking of the color bar in many establishments, especially in Las Vegas. May 20 was named Josephine Baker day by the NAACP for her efforts. Part of her fight against racism came in the form of the “Rainbow Tribe.” She adopted 12 children to demonstrate that “children of different ethnicities and religions could still be brothers” (About). The children would sometimes
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