In the United States, Josephine Baker is best known for her provocative, Burlesque-style dancing in the 1920s; the most iconic images of Baker is her posing in a pearl-studded bananas skirt and layers of pearl necklaces from her 1927 performance, ‘Un Vent de Folie’, in a well-known Parisian cabaret music arena. In her 20 year career, Baker became an opera singer, international celebrity, first black women to be in a featured film, and civil rights activist. In France, she is known for being a dynamic entertainer and U.S. civil rights activists-but they also know her as a World War II War Hero.
In 1928, Josephine Baker’s European tour lead her right into the uncertain political climate in Europe. A political agitator, Adolf Hitler, published his biography that popularized dangerous, racist ideologies that would spread through the region of Vienne-the first stop of Baker’s European tour. She was not met with cheers of fans or admiration but with poster that deemed her performances as evil and called her a ‘black devil’. The World War II Museum in New Orleans notes that Josephine Baker linked the hostile experience of her carriage ride to her hotel in Vienne to the racist mobs she experienced as a child in East St. Louis, Missouri. The ideology of Hitler spread through Europe and by the start of World War II, Baker had to put her performance in Europe on hold. In 1940, Josephine Baker and her husband Jean Lion -a wealthy, French-Jewish sugar broker-had to flee Paris.
Josephine Baker turned into a female James Bond, when she was recruited to be a spy by Jaques Abtey, a French counter-military intelligence officer that was championing the French Resistance against the Nazis. Baker took on the job as a spy for the French Resistance since she could move smoothly through different countries, due to being a famous entertainer and celebrity. In the time that Josephine Baker was a spy for the French Resistance, she collected over 50 classified documents and secret intelligence by pinning information to her bra and panties or writing information in invisible ink on her sheet music. Baker joked that no one would dare frisk her because she was considered a sex symbol by many of the opposition’s guards.
Baker housed many refugees and Resistance members in her chateau as part of the French Resistance, which sparked an impromptu visit by Nazi soldiers. In 1954, Josephine Baker was rewarded with the Croix de Guerre and the Rosette de laRésistance by General de Gaulle. He also honored Baker by naming her a Chevalier de Légion d’honneur, which is thehighest order of merit for military and civil action.
Salute to the Creole Goddess, Josephine Baker, for being real International Black Girl Magic!