Josephine Baker

“. . . I improvised, crazed by the music. . . . Even my teeth and eyes burned with fever. Each time I leaped I seemed to touch the sky and when I regained earth it seemed to be mine alone.”

Josephine Baker only spent the first 15 years of her life in Missouri but she is one of the most well known women to have spent time in the state. She was born in St. Louis, dirt poor, and as a teen attracted attention for her street dancing which landed her in several vaudville shows. She was soon swept off to New York and became a part of the Harlem Rennaisance, dancing as a chorus girl in numerous broadway plays.

Josephine Baker came from extremely humble beginnings and yet developed the confidence and skills to achieve anything she set her mind to. She went against the grain of main stream society – not only in her performances (appearing nude), but also in her efforts to fight for civil rights (forcing integration by refusing to perform for segregated audiences). Baker did all sorts of interesting things: spied on the Nazis, adopted a dozen children, lived in a castle.

She’s got a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame at 6501 Delmar, and is included in the Hall of Famous Missourians in Jefferson City.

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