On This Day

Josephine Baker

Dancer, Singer, Spy and Civil Rights Activist Josephine Baker

Full Name: Freda Josephine McDonald
Profession: Dancer, Singer, Spy and Civil Rights Activist

Nationality:
United States of America
American

Why Famous: A symbol of the Jazz Age, Josephine Baker became a star of the theater in 1920s Paris. She first danced in Paris in 1925 before becoming a sensation the next year when she performed her now famous "Danse Sauvage" at the Folies Bergère cabaret hall wearing just a skirt of bananas.

From the 1930s Baker began to sing on stage. She appeared in a revival of Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway in 1934 but without the same success as she enjoyed in Europe. During WWII Baker worked for French Intelligence then for the Resistance. For this she was awarded a number of honors by France including the French Legion by General Charles de Gaulle.

Baker supported the American civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, even though she was mostly abroad. When she was in the US she refused to perform to segregated audiences. In 1963 she spoke at the March on Washington alongside Martin Luther King Jr.

Born: June 3, 1906
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Generation: Greatest Generation
Chinese Zodiac: Horse
Star Sign: Gemini

Died: April 12, 1975 (aged 68)
Cause of Death: Cerebral hemorrhage

Events in the Life of Josephine Baker

  • 1925-10-02 Josephine Baker first performs in Paris in La Revue Nègre at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées
  • 1933-12-14 Josephine Baker performs in Amsterdam
  • 1934-12-21 French film "Zouzou" premieres in Paris, starring Josephine Baker; 1st black woman to star in a major motion picture
  • 1963-08-28 Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I have a dream" speech addressing a civil rights march at Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.