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Josephine Baker in New York during a tour of performances in the
United States in 1951. She complained that waiters at the Stork
Club, then a swank New York nightspot, ignored her and her
companions. In October 1951, she announced that she would not
include St. Louis on her tour because she refused to perform before
racially segregated audiences. (Associated Press)
Josephine Baker at the steps of her Chateau des Milandes, a 15th
century castle in the south of France, east of Bourdeaux, that she
bought in 1949 for her family of adopted children. But she lost the
castle in March 1969 to settle debts. (Associated Press)
Josephine Baker in one of her trademark vaudeville poses. (H.
Josephine Baker on stage in Berlin. (Naked at the Feast: A
Biography of Josephine Baker, by Lynn Haney)
Josephine Baker at St. Louis Union Station on Feb. 3, 1948, on a
train bound for New York. She had been visiting her mother, Carrie
Martin, who lived here. Baker was born in St. Louis, probably in
1906, and left as a teenager in 1919 or 1920. After playing for a
traveling vaudeville show, she performed in New York, where she
joined a black dance troupe headed for Paris. She became a
sensation there in 1925 for her energetic and lightly clad dance
routines. She refused to perform in St. Louis until 1952 because
she wouldn't play before racially segregated audiences.
Josephine Baker on stage at Kiel Auditorium on Feb. 3, 1952, the
first time she had performed in her home town since becoming
internationally famous. She sang and danced and changed her
elaborate costumes several times. Then she read a speech she had
prepared blasting St. Louis, and the United States, for racism and
racial discrimination. (Buel White/Post-Dispatch)
Josephine Baker at the Strand Theater in New York on March
6,1951, for the start of her American tour. She last had played New
York with the Ziegfeld Follies in 1936. She became a French citizen
the next year. (Associated Press)
Josephine Baker sings in 1973, date and location not provided.
She was to have performed at Kiel Opera House in October 1973, but
cancelled the show. (Associated Press)
Josephine Baker marries Jo Bouillon in a chateau near St.
Cyprien, France, on June 3, 1947. Biographers disagree on how many
times she was married, but they say it was at least three times.
Josephine Baker on Broadway in 1951, her first return to the New
York stage in 15 years. (International News Photos)
Josephine Baker in 1923, before she left for Europe.
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
Josephine Baker in St. Louis in October 1950, her third visit to
her home town, this time with husband Jo Bouillon, a French
orchestra leader. She still wouldn't perform here.
Josephine Baker singing at Kiel Auditorium on Feb. 3, 1952. (Buel White/Post-Dispatch)
Josephine Baker accepts birthday wishes in New York on June 3,
1973, shortly before she performed at Carnegie Hall. The photo
caption says it was her 67th birthday. But after she died April 12,
1975, of a cerebral hemorrhage in Paris, her publicists said she
was 68. She was buried in Monaco. Over the years, articles and
books have listed different birth years, although the most
agreed-upon birth date is 1906, which indeed would have made her 68
when she died. (United Press International)
Some of Josephine Baker's dance steps. (New York Public
A promotional poster of Josephine Baker from the 1920s.
Josephine Baker with Pepito de Abatino, who helped Josephine
Baker transform herself from exotic dancer to Continental lady.
(Naked at the Feast)
Josephine Baker as a young woman. (Yale University)
Josephine Baker in 1959 with some of the 11 children of
different races she adopted. She called them her rainbow tribe. At
right is husband Jo Bouillon. They lived for a time in a 15th
Century castle outside of Parish.
Josephine Baker at the Gare D'Orsay, a former train station in
Paris, around 1940. With her are husband Jean Lyon and Baker's
secretary. (Associated Press)
ST. LOUIS • Josephine Baker crooned love songs in French. In a full and elaborate gown, she strutted a hint of the steps from her frenetic, less-clad days in Paris.
Baker's show on Feb. 3, 1952, in Kiel Auditorium was noteworthy mainly for having taken place at all. She hadn't performed in her native city since achieving worldwide fame in Paris in 1925. She had plenty of opportunities to play here, but refused to appear before racially segregated audiences.
Baker was a teenager when she left St. Louis about 1919 with a vaudeville troupe. She performed in New York before heading for Paris with Le Revue Negre, a black dance company, and became a sensation for sultry dances wearing only a few feathers or a skirt of bananas. Flamboyant on stage and in life, she walked a pet leopard in Paris and became a French citizen in 1937.
Baker returned home a few times, but only to visit her mother. In 1951, she refused $12,000 to perform at the Chase Hotel because blacks couldn't have attended.
She appeared at Kiel in 1952 on behalf of the Citizens Protest Committee on Overcrowding in the Negro Public Schools, a local group raising money to fight segregation. Baker entertained an integrated audience of about 8,000 people for two hours, then let her hometown have it.
"I ran away from St. Louis, and then I ran away from the United States, because of that terror of discrimination," Baker said, reading from her script. "The hate directed against the colored people here in St. Louis has always given me a sad feeling. ... How can you expect the world to believe in you and respect your preaching of democracy when you yourself treat your colored brothers as you do?"