Art of the Quarter


In this century African Americans found struggles every way they turned. But some of those folks found ways to overcome the challenges and shine. They created stunning examples of what could be.

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker (3 June 1906 – 12 April 1975) was an American-born French dancer, singer and actress. Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adopted France. She was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics, directed by Mario Nalpas and Henri Étiévant.

She was born in St Louis, Missouri, as Freda Josephine McDonald where she had a very rough beginning. She dropped out of school at age 12 and had two failed marriages at ages 13 and 15.  Then she joined a vaudeville troupe that took her to New York City. She later became part of a show, Shuffle Along in the chorus line. This would be one of the first steps to her success.

She used comedy to make herself stand out in the chorus line, and later launch a career that sent her overseas because prejudice limited what she could accomplish in the United States. In Paris she became a success which led to a career that spanned all over Europe.  Some have called her the first Beyonce in that she starred in theater and movies in France and became a standout star.

She did not limit her life to performance, during World War II she became a spy for the French Resistance and later received a medal for her work. In the 1950s became active in the Civil Rights Movement traveling throughout the southern part of the United States. Ever the humanitarian, she also adopted 12 children from around the world and raise them.


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