Josephine Baker will always be remembered as one of the world’s great beauties, fashion superstars and natural talents. Today would have been her 105th birthday so we decided to look back on her great accomplishments.

Josephine was born in St. Louis, the adopted granddaughter of former slaves. After frequent abuse from the women she worked for, she dropped out of school at twelve years old and lived on the street. She became known for her dancing on street corners and was then recruited to join the St. Louis Chorus vaudeville show.

She arrived in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance and then a star truly was born. Josephine performed at the Plantation Club as well as on Broadway for shows including The Chocolate Dandies and Shuffle Along. In 1925, she took Paris’ Théâtre des Champs-Élysées by storm, taking eroticism to the next level with shows done almost practically in the nude. At the Folies Bergères, she coined her famous danse sauvage in which she performed in a skirt fashioned from fake bananas (Beyoncé channeled this in her Dejá Vu video).

Josephine was not only an entertainer, but an activist. She received the Croix de guerre and was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by Charles de Gaulle for her help after WWII. She refused to perform for segregated audiences at many places in the United States and protested for Civil Rights, having spoken at the March on Washington alongside Martin Luther King Jr.

Josephine Baker is a testament to the extraordinary things that black women can do with perseverance, determination and of course a great amount of talent. She pushed the envelope in every way possible and to this day, she inspires artists of all kinds. She showed that we can embrace our sexuality and have fun, yet still take a stand on issues that matter, never having to sacrifice our dignity or integrity in the name of fortune and fame. We owe her so much and her memory will definitely live on for years to come.

What are your thoughts on Josephine Baker and her legacy?

-Faith Cummings

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