Josephine Baker Returns to St. Louis

Josephine Baker returns to STL [Credit: stltoday.com]

Josephine Baker returns to STL [Credit: stltoday.com]

I love Josephine Baker. I love her courage to express herself and to use all of her talents. She was absolutely tenacious in her pursuits. Josephine Baker should be studied for her sense of style, the way she made over her life from St. Louis ragamuffin to international superstar, and for the way she saw the world. She saw the world as huge and conquerable. 

There is something else I love about the woman who wore a banana skirt. I love the fact that she fought injustice. I found this article at stltoday.com that chronicles her return to her hometown and its significance. Given I am returning to St. Louis, perhaps therein lies my inspiration and some encouragement.

Here is an excerpt:

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?”

Please read the rest HERE.

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