Portrait of American-born singer and dancer Josephine Baker (1906 – 1975) lying on a tiger rug in a silk evening gown and diamond earrings. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images).
African-American Josephine Baker was arguably the most influential and popular singer and dancer who did not only conquered the stage but dedicated her life to making this world a better place. If you only know Baker for her “banana skirt”, continue reading below to discover the many facets of this incredible woman.
Josephine Baker was a Spy for the French Resistance
During World War II, Josephine openly admitted that she would give her life to help France since Parisians gave their hearts to her. Her status as a celebrity was the perfect cover-up for her spy mission. She had no trouble traveling all across Europe and being invited at parties hosted by influential people because of her performances. Baker would gather information about German troops from Italian, Nazi, and Japanese officials by eavesdropping, drinking and flirting with them. She used her charm and status to avoid strip searches. The enemy did not know that her sheet music was filled with secret messages written in invisible ink and that she had important photos pinned inside her underwear.
Josephine Baker Fought Against Racial Discrimination in the United States
Keep in mind that Josephine lived in the 1950s when racial discrimination was prevalent in the U.S. Baker confronted segregation by forcing club owners to open their establishment to a diverse audience. She wrote and spoke against racial injustices and was the lone female speaker who spoke alongside Martin Luther King at the March on Washington. Her efforts against discrimination were recognized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Josephine Baker Adopted a Dozen Children from All Over the World
Josephine’s personal life was a living testament to her political convictions. Since 1954, she adopted a dozen children from various countries including Colombia, Japan, Israel, and Algeria.
Known as her “Rainbow Trible”, Baker tried to show the world that it was possible not to be bound by race and nationality.