Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine Carson in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 3, 1906 to washerwoman, Carrie McDonald, and vaudeville drummer, Eddie Carson. Josephine's father abandoned them shortly after her birth and her mother married a kind but perpetually unemployed man named Arthur Martin. Their family came to include a son and two more daughters. Josephine grew up cleaning houses and babysitting for wealthy white families until she got a job waitressing at The Old Chauffeur's Club when she was 13-years-old. While working there she met a man named Willie Wells whom she had a short marriage with. Josephine never depended on a man for financial support and she never hesitated to leave when a relationship hit its breaking point. Which is why she was married and divorced three more times to an American named Willie Baker in 1921 (whose last name she chose to keep), a Frenchman ,Jean Lion, in 1937 (from whom she attained French citizenship) and a French orchestra leader, Jo Bouillon, in 1947. Josephine toured the United States with The Jones Family Band and The Dixie Steppers in 1919, performing various comical skits. When the troupes split, she tried to advance as a chorus girl for The Dixie Steppers in their production "Shuffle Along". She was turned away because she was "too skinny and too dark." Still determined as ever, she learned the chorus line's routines while working as part of the crew. Therefore, Josephine was the obvious replacement when one of the dancers left. Onstage she rolled her eyes and purposely acted
clumsy. The audience loved her comedic touch and Josephine was a box office hit for the rest of the show's run. Josephine traveled to Paris for a new show that proved to be a turning point in her career. Josephine and dance partner Joe Alex captivated the audience with a routine that was new and exotic, and included Josephine boldly dressed in nothing but a feather skirt. Josephine worked the audience into frenzy with...
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