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 The Dixie Steppers (About Josephine Baker). During that time she did comical skits, but wished to advance to a chorus girl. Originally she was thought to be “too skinny and too dark,” but when one of the dancers left, she was able to fill in (About). The audience loved her.

Not until Josephine moved to racially integrated Paris did she gain real fame with La Revue Nègre. Her more exotic and erotic stylings began at this time as well. Her clothes were unheard of and her movements were uninhibited. One her most famous outfits was a feather skirt, and nothing else. The costume that cemented her celebrity status included a skirt that composed of 16 bananas strung together which she wore in La Folie du Jour at the Follies-Bergère Theater after La Revue Nègre closed.

Money was no longer a problem for Josephine. She “rivaled Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford as the most photographed women in the world” (About). By 1927, she was raking in more money than any other ente...

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...selves onto the streets of Paris for her funeral procession. She was the first American woman ever buried in France with military honors.

Sources Cited

“About Josephine Baker.” Official Site of Josephine Baker. On-line. Internet. 16 Nov.

2002. Available: - An informative and thorough site on Josephine Baker, includes photos.

Lewis, Jone Johnson . “Josephine Baker.” The History Net. 16 Nov. 2002. Available: - A more basic look at Josephine Bakers’ life, but through a slightly more feminist point of view.

Robinson, Lisa Clayton. “Entertainment: Josephine Baker.” 17 Nov. 2002.

Available: - A basic biography of Josephine Baker’s life, but from the African American point of view.
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