Josephine Baker Biography

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Josephine Baker was an American singer, dancer, and actress who rose to fame in France during the Harlem Renaissance: “a literary and intellectual flowering that fostered a new black cultural identity in the 1920s and 1930s”(Rowen). Josephine Baker was the first African American female to star in a movie, the only woman to speak during the March on Washington alongside of Martin Luther King Jr., and the first black international pop icon (Lewis). Jo Baker is best known for, her “jungle banana dance”, where she danced naked except for a string of bananas tied around her waist. Born Freda Josephine McDonald, even though they were eventually divorced, Josephine Baker decided to keep the last name of her second husband, Willie Baker. Josephine ran away from home at the age of 13 to pursue her dream of being a famous dancer-singer but didn’t get her big break until she was discovered by director Folies Bergere in Paris. (Lewis) In 1951 at The Stork Club, New York City’s most extravagant night club at the time, Josephine was denied service because she was black (Lewis).That was the first time racial inequality directly impacted her. Josephine responded by refusing to entertain in clubs that did not allow blacks, in which several clubs responded with integration. She “crusaded for racial equality” again in 1963 when she spoke alongside of Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington: the largest political rally for African American rights in United States history. Throughout the rest of her life, Josephine did many other things in protest of racial inequality, the most famous being her adoption of 12 multi-ethnic orphans (Gaines). Some say that Josephine started the trend of celebrities (ex: Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, and Hugh Jackman) adopting multi-ethnic orphans. Josephine has influenced the works of many modern day entertainers. Singer-songwriter Beyonce has given Josephine credit for being the inspiration of many of her...
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