Josephine Baker

Arizona Jefferson

A Brief Biography of Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri. She grew up cleaning houses and babysitting for wealthy white families. When she was 13, she dropped out of school and after running away from home, she got a job as a waitress at The Old Chauffeur's Club. While she was working there, she married a man, Willie Wells, and divorced him only weeks later. Around this time, Josephine was 15 and she started dancing in clubs and in street performances. Traveling to Paris was a turning point in her career. She was a major celebrity in Europe. When she traveled back to the United States, American audiences rejected the idea of a black woman with so much sophistication and power. Newspapers were equally cruel calling her a "Negro Wrench", and Josephine returned to Europe heartbroken. She visited the United States in the 50's and 60's to fight against racism. She served in World War 2 for France, giving performances to the soldiers. She was also a sub-lieutenant in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. At one point in her life she had a leopard, a chimpanzee, a pig, a snake, a goat, parakeets , fish, three cats, and seven dogs, When she passed away, more than 20,000 people watched her funeral on the streets. She was also the first American woman buried in France with military honors.
Josephine Baker's Banana Dance


Where was she when she performed the Banana Dance?

Why did she adopt 12 children?

Impact of Josephine Baker

She helped influence some people to join the American Civil Movement. She gave some speeches and she had a media battle against racism.