Born Freda Josephine McDonald, even though they were eventually divorced, Josephine Baker decided to keep the last name of her second husband, Willie Baker. Josephine ran away from home at the age of 13 to pursue her dream of being a famous dancer-singer but didn’t get her big break until she was discovered by director Folies Bergere in Paris. (Lewis) In 1951 at The Stork Club, New York City’s most extravagant night club at the time, Josephine was denied service because she was black (Lewis). That was the first time racial inequality directly impacted her.
Josephine responded by refusing to entertain in clubs that did not allow blacks, in which several clubs responded with integration. She “crusaded for racial equality” again in 1963 when she spoke alongside of Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington: the largest political rally for African American rights in United States history. Throughout the rest of her life, Josephine did many other things in protest of racial inequality, the most famous being her adoption of 12 multi-ethnic orphans (Gaines).
Some say that Josephine started the trend of celebrities (ex: Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, and Hugh Jackman) adopting multi-ethnic orphans. Josephine has influenced the works of many modern day entertainers. Singer-songwriter Beyonce has given Josephine credit for being the inspiration of many of her performances throughout her career, including her re-make of Josephine’s famous banana dance for a performance of her song Deja Vu in 2006 (Gorgan).
And in 2010, R&B recording artist Keri Hilson portrayed Josephine in her single “Pretty Girl Rock”. (MacKenzie)
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MacKenzie, Carina Adly. “Who is Josephine Baker? Meet the Legend who Inspired Keri Hilson’s ‘Pretty Girl Rock’”. Zap2it. Tribune Media Services. 21 Nov. 2010.
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“Josephine Baker - Breezin’ Along With the Breeze Lyrics”. ST Lyrics. STLyrics. com. N. D. Web, 19 Dec. 2011.