Today is Josephine Baker’s birthday. Most people only know her in this way:
But she was so much more. Born into poverty in racially divided St. Louis in 1906, Ms. Baker was homeless and living on the street by the time she was in her early teens. She was discovered dancing on a street corner, which lead to her roles in New York and Paris musical revues. In addition to being a talented dancer, Ms. Baker was an actress, singer and muse to several artists and authors, World War II spy for the French Resistance, mother who adopted children from other countries (before it was fashionable), friend to dictators and princes alike, civil rights activist, and recipient of the Legion d’Honneur. She was elegant and graceful until the very end.
If you would like to learn more about this fascinating woman, the library has these to offer:
- Josephine: The Hungry Heart by Jean-Claude Baker and Chris Chase
- Naked at the Feast: The Biography of Josephine Baker by Lynn Haney
- Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker in her Time by Phyllis Rose
- Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and the Image by Bennetta Jules-Rosette
- The Josephine Baker Story by Ean Wood
And I have to mention this last one (even though it is a reference book that you must look at in the library and can’t check out), because it has the most beautiful full-color lithographs of Ms. Baker and fellow performers in their Paris revue…
Live life with abandon, the way Josephine Baker did.
P.S. Just in case you were wondering about the title, “Don’t Touch My Tomatoes” was one of the more popular songs recorded by Ms. Baker in the English language.