Josephine Baker may have been a French citizen when she died, but she was born Freda Josephine McDonald right in St. Louis, Missouri, to a family that struggled to make ends meet.
Her big break came right at the height of the “Roaring 20s,” when she joined an all-Black dance troupe in Paris - La Revue Nẻgre.
But it was Baker’s eye-popping numbers that introduced Black dance styles to Parisians - doing the Charleston wearing nothing but feathers, and her famous “Banana Dance” - that made her the biggest Black woman star in the world.
Josephine Baker was even a spy! Yes, she served during WWII for the French. Afterward, she came back to the United States to be a civil rights activist, refusing to play at segregated venues.
Baker revolutionized ideas about race, gender, and performance in ways that we still see to this day. We should always be reminded of those who paved the way for us, women like Josephine Baker.