Josephine Baker

The 1920's Parisian Success...

Before The Fame

Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri. Baker was a almost a 'bombshell' of the 20's; she changed the creative view during the Harlem Renaissance. She rose to fame at only 13 years old when she was working in clubs, and then eventually, touring with the Jones Family Band and the Dixie Steppers doing comedy around the country. Before she she was star that we know, Baker was babysitting and cleaning houses for richer white families at 8 years old. She was often told 'don't kiss the babies' or just treated unfairly. Baker tried to return to school, but it was brief before she went to waitress in a club (at 13), and then got married, for the first time, to Willie Wells, which only lasted a few weeks.
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Josephine Baker for Chocolate Dandies.


For Josephine Baker the 20's were about fame, the liveliness and of course, her career. Over the time-span of her career, she received over 1,000 marriage proposals (just a fun factoid)! She was the highest-paid performers in Europe, and popular the Parisians. In America, she was big for her performance in Chocolate Dandies. I don't believe many people in 2015 know who Josephine Baker is, she was mostly big amongst the Parisian culture, and in Europe in general. No one will know about her performances in Danse Sauvage, La Folie du Jour, or her even performing in the at the Folies Bergère in only a feather skirt; which was iconic during the 1920's. Josephine Baker changing the stigma of women, and during her fame, she was the first African-American to break from racial offense.
(1925) Josephine Baker dancing the original charleston
Was the Charleston big all around the world?
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Baker's 1920 photoshoot in Paris.


She changed the creative image; for women and African Americans. The important issue during the 1920's was inequality, she felt under-paid in the clubs and the tension of when she was 8. When she was in America, she was often rejected roles because she was 'too skinny' or 'too dark'. Still, for her, the 20's were the years to have fun, seek entertainment and was the decade to remember.
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Baker with 2nd husband, Will Baker.


Josephine Baker Biography. Editors.