Joséphine Baker, a talented artist but not only….
Josephine Baker was born in Missouri on 3 June 1906 in St. Louis to a black American mother and a father, whom she did not know, probably of Spanish origin.
Her childhood with her mother, her brother and her two sisters was marked by great poverty and racial segregation, against which she never stopped fighting.
Dancer and singer, she is a complete artist
From a very young age, she was passionate about dancing and thanks to her strong character, she was soon on stage: at the age of 14 she won her first fee at the Théâtre de St-Louis, which was the beginning of a great career for her!
Until she was 18, she took part in performances between New York and Chicago and in 1925, her troupe flew to Paris where she performed in the Revue nègre at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées where she created a scandal, waddling on stage to the rhythm of the drums and almost naked to caricature the image of the colonies conveyed by France!
At the Folies Bergères, she played one of the leading roles in the Revue, adorned with her famous banana belt and pink feather tiara!
In 1930, Josephine Baker was also recognised as a singer. She had a huge success in Paris with her song “J’ai deux amours”. She became famous and opened her own cabaret Chez Joséphine.
In 1938 she married Jean Lion, a French industrialist who enabled her to obtain French nationality. Now wealthy, she showed great generosity to the benefit of many charities.
A woman actively involvedin the Resistance
In 1939, she was recruited by the Free French Forces. She used her international reputation, which allowed her to travel freely, to work in military counter-espionage in Paris.
As an intelligence agent, she was sent on a mission to Morocco and put her life at risk on several occasions. In 1961, she was awarded the Légion d’Honneur medal.
She continued her fight against racial discrimination and injustice alongside Martin Luther King by participating in the March on Washington in 1963 and by creating her “Village du Monde, Capitale de la Fraternité universelle” at the Château des Milandes in Castelnaud..
The rainbow tribe of a motherwith unconditional love
Married since 1947 to Jo Bouillon, a renowned conductor, she adopted his 12 children, of different nationalities and religions, from 1955 onwards.
If the 50s were happy and joyful for the family, Josephine Baker’s lavish lifestyle but above all her excessive generosity and naivety, abused by a number of unscrupulous artists, would be the downfall of her fortune and happiness.
Terribly in debt and left by her husband, she had to put the Château des Milandes up for sale in 1964 and to pay off her debts, she had to go back on stage.
During a few performances in Paris and Monaco, Josephine Baker became a star again, but she was exhausted. Found unconscious in her Paris flat, she was rushed to the Salpêtrière hospital where she died on 12 April 1975 of a cerebral haemorrhage..
Her funeral took place at the Madeleine in Paris, she was buried in Monaco and she will become the 6th woman to enter the Pantheon on 30 November 2021.
24 January 2023