Josephine Baker was an entertainer and activist. She is the first American born woman to be honored with France's Croix de Guerre for serving as a spy during the French Resistance. (Google Images)
Josephine Baker was an entertainer and activist. She is the first American born woman to be honored with France’s Croix de Guerre for serving as a spy during the French Resistance. (Google Images)

“Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.”Josephine Baker, entertainer and activist.

JOSEPHINE BAKER

Josephine Baker, entertainer and actress, was born on June 3, 1906 as Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri. At the age of 15, Baker moved to New York City and appeared in the chorus of “Shuffle Along” (1921). By the time she appeared in “The Chocolate Dandies” (1924), she was the highest paid chorus girl in vaudeville. In 1925, she debuted in Paris and shortly thereafter was the most successful American entertainer working in France.

Despite her popularity in France, Baker never achieved the same level of success in the United States. In 1937, she returned to Paris and became a French citizen. During World War II, Baker volunteered to spy for France and provided significant assistance to the French Resistance. In recognition of her efforts, Baker was the first American born woman to receive the French military honor, the Croix de Guerre. Although based in France, Baker was supportive of the Civil Rights Movement. When in the U.S., she refused to perform for segregated audiences and spoke at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Baker died April 12, 1975.

The Akosua Report: Facts on The African Diaspora, is written by Akosua Lowery. Follow her on Twitter @AkosuaLowery.

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