Josephine Baker’s path begins as a wildly dancing black girl from America with rolling eyes. With nothing but bobbing plush bananas around her hips, and only a few strings of false pearls on her upper body, she becomes a revue star in the 1920s, which is still unique today. Her world fame is based on Paris, with the Society at her feet. She is the sensation of the “Revue Nègre” at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, literally the embodiment of the prevailing enthusiasm for all forms of exotic art.
Editor in the features section, responsible for the “art market”.
Mona Horncastle begins her biography of Josephine Baker as follows: “1917. St. Louis, Missouri, USA. I’m eleven years old. ”In Baker’s personal recollections, the racial conflict in which white workers attacked people in the poorest black district of the industrial city on July 1, 1917 because they saw African Americans as competitors in the unskilled labor market, take one central position – as an “apocalypse”. With this experience, the seed was laid for Baker’s lifelong commitment against racism of all stripes and for human rights.
Airs and whims
She was born as Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Her mother is twenty-one-year-old Carrie McDonald, who gives birth at St. Louis Social Evil Hospital. After the hospital was founded in the 1870s to provide regular health checks for white prostitutes, it now mainly accepts white women.
The fact that Carrie McDonald, a young black woman, is cared for there for six weeks for the apparently difficult birth of her daughter is astonishing and explains the mystery of her father that has never been solved. Whether he was a white man whose family Carrie McDonald might be in the service of and taking care of her in the background – which could explain Josephine Baker’s relatively light skin color – or whether it was the black drummer Eddie Carson with whom she performed for appearances the bars of St. Louis her mother never enlightened.
Penchant for luxury
This uncertainty, coupled with being unloved as a little girl, who roams the streets starving and freezing, is forced to low-level jobs with white families, produced in clubs in St. Louis at an early age, in order to finally find her way to France on adventurous routes, shape them later Josephine Baker with her airs and whims. But her strong assertiveness, her unpredictability and her extraordinary generosity towards others are based on these experiences.
Her extraordinary talent made her the first superstar the United States and Europe knew – especially a black superstar. In the silent film “Siren of the Tropics” in 1927, she was the first black woman to ever play a leading role in a film. Despite her vehement engagement against racial segregation, she was repeatedly met with resentment from parts of the black population. They were meant for a woman and artist who had become rich in the meantime and who did not hide her penchant for luxury.
At constant mortal danger
Josephine Baker had little luck in her private life. She was married for the first time when she was thirteen, probably because her mother wanted her to be looked after. Various relationships followed, affairs with men and women, and three more marriages. When she founded her “rainbow family” in her castle in the Dordogne in the 1950s, for whom she adopted twelve children of different origins, skin colors and religions, it was her attempt to create an example of peaceful coexistence. But with her “rainbow tribe” she took over, emotionally as well as financially. Her fourth marriage with the French conductor Jo Bouillon failed and the castle was taken away from her. It was the former film actress Grace Kelly, now Princess Gracia Patricia, who gave her and the children an apartment in Monaco.