“A violinist has his violin, a painter his palette. All I had was myself. I was the instrument I must care for.”
3 June 1906 – 12 April 1975
Josephine was an American-born dancer, singer, and actress. Born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, she became a citizen of France in 1937. Fluent in both English and French, Baker became an international musical and political icon. She was given such nicknames as the “Bronze Venus”, the “Black Pearl”, and the “Creole Goddess”.
Baker was the first African-American female to star in a motion picture, Zouzou (1934), to integrate an American concert hall, and to become a world-famous entertainer. She is also noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, for assisting the French Resistance during World War II, and for receiving the French military honor, the Croix de guerre.
After King’s assassination, his widow Coretta Scott King approached Baker in Holland to ask if she would take her husband’s place as leader of the American Civil Rights Movement. After many days of thinking it over, Baker declined, saying her children (she had twelve children, all of which were adopted) were “too young to lose their mother.”