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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  • Bronze

    I was watching a show on PBS about luxury trains throughout Europe and Italy and they said that a train broke down near Switzerland and Josephine Baker entertained the passengers until they fixed the trains.

    She was the only black on the train.

    Can you say OMFG!!!!!! I talk big chit. I think I’m strong but really…..and I mean really….I don’t hold a candle to our ancestors that risked their life to fight injustice. I CAN NOT imagine the balls it took to be a black woman, alone, walking throughout life w/o any protection from your peers cause you are the only black woman for miles. Hell, countries. I have a problem cause my (black) peers that don’t understand my style but I can not imagine what it feels like to be told by the whole world that no matter how drop dead gorgeous you are….you are not important. You don’t matter. In the face of that, Ms. Baker knew she was a pioneer. She knew she was powerful. And she did not budge.

    I want that kind of girl power. I want to be graceful w/o hating my haters. Sorry for the long post but this is just one of the reasons I love about being a black woman. I have no excuse for settling or justifying being mediocre when so many b4 me died in the name of freedom.

  • she was a great woman with a good view for fashion,she will always be remembered

  • Happy B.Day Ms Baker

  • Rakel

    I love Josephine Baker! She was so ahead of her time. I not only admire her dancing career and activism, but I love how she adopted 12 children of diverse backgrounds as her own way of fighting against racism.