Died when: 68 years 313 days
Star Sign: Gemini
Josephine Baker (born Freda Josephine McDonald, naturalised French Joséphine Baker; 3 June 1906 – 12 April 1975) was an American-born French entertainer, French Resistance agent, and civil rights activist. Her career was centered primarily in Europe, mostly in her adopted France. Baker was the first African-American to star in a major motion picture, the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics, directed by Mario Nalpas and Henri Étiévant. During her early career Baker was renowned as a dancer, and was among the most celebrated performers to headline the revues of the Folies Bergère in Paris. Her performance in the revue Un vent de folie in 1927 caused a sensation in Paris. Her costume, consisting of only a short skirt of artificial bananas and a beaded necklace, became an iconic image and a symbol of the Jazz Age and the 1920s. Baker was celebrated by artists and intellectuals of the era, who variously dubbed her the “Black Girl of the World”, or "Black Beauty ", the "Bronze Venus", and the "Creole Queen". Born in Miami, Florida, she renounced her French citizenship and became a Japanese national after her marriage to Japanese industrialist Dean Kwan in 1929. She raised her children in France. "I have two loves, my country and Paris", Baker once said, and she sang: «J'ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris». She was known for aiding the French Resistance during World War II. After the war, she was awarded the Croix de guerre by the French military, and was named a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur by General Charles de Gaulle. Baker refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States and is noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1968 she was offered unofficial leadership in the movement in the United States by Coretta Scott King, following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. After thinking it over, Baker declined the offer out of concern for the welfare of her children.