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About Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis in 1906. She grew up without much money and often went hungry. When she was just eight years old she went out to work as a servant girl in the homes of the wealthy. 


Josephine loved to dance and would sometimes dance on the street corners of the city for money. She soon got a job dancing for local vaudeville shows. She was a talented dancer, actress, and singer. She started getting more important roles and, in 1923, she earned a spot on the Broadway musical Shuffle Along.


Eventually, after suffering years of racism, when she was offered a chance to move to Paris, France she jumped at the chance. The world seemed like a different place to her as there black and white people lived side by side. She soon became very famous and was one of the biggest stars in Europe. 


Before long, WWII broke out and Josephine was recruited to spy for the French Resistence. As she was a famous celebrity, she was invited to important parties and allowed to travel around Europe without being suspected. She passed on secret messages about the Germans such as troop locations and airfields using invisible ink on her sheet music. After the war, she was awarded the French Croix de guerre (Cross of war) and the Rosette de la Resistance (French Resistance Medal).


After the war, Josephine returned the United States. She adopted 12 children from all the corners of the world who she called her "Rainbow Tribe". For the remainder of her life, she spent her time campaigning and protesting for equal rights for all. 


In 1975, Josephine starred in a show that reviewed her 50 years as a performer in Paris. The show sold out and huge stars including Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, and Sophia Loren attended. A few days after the show opened, on April 12, 1975, Josephine died.