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Josephine Baker

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Born to Carrie McDonald, a laundress, and Eddie Carson, a musician, Josephine's early life hinted at her future career. She first danced for the public on the streets of St. Louis for nickels and dimes. Later, she became a chorus girl on the St. Louis stage. At 15, she married a Pullman porter named Baker, but left him when she ran away from St. Louis at age 17, feeling there was too much racial discrimination in the city. Her first job in Paris was in La revue negre. Her next significant job was at the Folies bergere, where she was a member of their all-black revue. It was at the Folies bergere, in 1925, that she first performed her famous banana dance. She quickly became a favorite of the French, and her fame grew. She had many ups and downs during her career. Although popular in France, during the McCarthy era she was told that she was no longer welcome in the United States. In 1937 she renounced her American citizenship and became a citizen of France. In 1961, she was awarded the Legion of Honor, France's highest honor. In the late 1960's, she began having financial difficulties, and stopped performing in 1968. Princess Grace offered her a home in Monaco when she learned of Josephine's financial problems. At the request of Princess Grace, she performed at Monaco's summer ball in 1974, and was a great success. That same year, she staged a week of performances in New York and called the show 'An Evening with Josephine Baker.' She had just begun a Paris revue celebrating her half-century on the stage, when on April 10 she was stricken and went into a coma. She died without regaining consciousness. Her funeral was held in Paris, and she was buried in Monaco.
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