Josephine Baker (1906 – 1975) was the first black person to become a world famous entertainer, or to star in a major movie. Dubbed the “Black Pearl”, “Bronze Venus”, and “Creole Goddess”, she was an American-born entertainer, renowned dancer, Jazz Age symbol, 1920s icon, war heroine, and civil rights activist. She moved to France and made it her home. When her adopted homeland was conquered by Germany in WWII, Baker joined the French Resistance, and repeatedly risked her life in clandestine work against the Nazis. After the war, she became active in the struggle for racial equality, both in the US and around the world.
Following are forty fascinating about her life as a pioneer, icon, and heroine:
40. Her Parentage Was Shrouded in Mystery
She was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, purportedly the daughter of a drummer named Eddie Carson. However, her mother, Carrie McDonald, of mixed African American and Native American heritage, had been admitted into an exclusively white hospital in May of 1906. She stayed there for weeks, until Josephine was born. Admission to a person of color to a white hospital was almost unheard of during that era of segregation. The likeliest explanation is that Josephine’s mother, who worked for a wealthy German family, had been impregnated by her employer, who then pulled strings to get Carrie admitted into the the city’s best hospital.