by John Kirby Abraham
Racial prejudice in America forced Josephine Baker to seek recognition, fame and equality in France. This biography is the story of a black St. Louis washerwoman’s daughter, of mixed European and African ancestry, who turned her back on her birthright and choose a career in which her dark skin became an asset. With the money she earned as an international entertainer, she founded a multiracial community in France for children of different ethnic backgrounds.
Her rags-to-riches fairy tale with the traditional ingredients all present: a stage-struck teenager, who leaves home to join a dance troupe; discovery in the chorus line of a music hall, overnight success in Paris followed by stardom at the Folies Bergere, world tours, international acclaim, and a final triumphant comeback at the end of a lifelong career. There is even a prince charming to bring prosperity and happiness in a castle in southwest France. There, Josephine acts as Fairy Godmother to a family of adopted children, known as the ‘Rainbow Tribe.’
To this script should be added the saga of her service as an intelligence agent in the French Resistance during World War II, which gained her national honors and decorations from the French President and the lasting gratitude of the Allies.
But this story of a Black Cinderella who leaped social and professional hurdles to achieve fame and fortune also has its somber side in which she paid a heavy tribute to her racial origins.
* It is presently out of print.