Sunday, June 3, 2012

Free for Jo Baker's Birthday - "Josephine Baker in Berlin"

In honor of Josephine Baker's birthday, download "Josephine Baker in Berlin" FREE from Smashwords!

E-Book DescriptionAn aging, lonely Josephine Baker has one last chance to dance across the stage, but only if she accepts an invitation to visit Berlin. The destination unlocks long-buried memories of the decadent pre-World War II Berlin, and of a beautiful young woman who reached out the star and eased her loneliness. 
Public Domain
Josephine Baker Biography: Jo Baker was born June 3, 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her birth name was Freda Josephine McDonald. She married Willie Baker in 1921 (notice she would have been 15 at the time - and he was her second husband!) and chose to keep his last name. Her father, Eddie Carson, was a drummer who abandoned her and her mother while Josephine was small. 

Baker's first jobs were as a babysitter and a housekeeper for white families in St. Louis. When she was 13, she got a waitressing job in a club, and ever after she was financially independent - unusual for an American woman of that time. 

Within three years, she made it onto a stage as a performer, appearing in comedy sketches. She was rejected as a chorus girl for being "too skinny and too dark." Still, she learned all the chorus lines' routines, and thus could fill in for dancers when they were absent. Audiences began to notice how she incorporated comic touches - such as the famous way she crossed her eyes - into the dance routines, and she became a breakout star. 
Public Domain
Given the opportunity to perform in France, Baker became an instant sensation. She was a major celebrity in Europe, starring in two movies in 1930 and becoming one of the most-photographed women in the world. A tour of the U.S. in 1936 proved disastrous, though: deeply ingrained racism made American critics and audiences unable to accept a woman of color who displayed Baker's celebrity status, power and sophistication. 

Returning to France, Baker worked for the French Resistance during World War Two, risking her life to smuggle secret messages in her music sheets. In the 1950s and 1960s, she actively fought against American racial segregation, although she continued to live in France. She eventually adopted twelve children from different ethnic backgrounds; she called them her "Rainbow Tribe." 

In 1973, Baker finally enjoyed a warm reception in the U.S. when she performed at Carnegie Hall. Baker died in France in 1975. 
Public Domain
Read more of Josephine Baker's biography at her official website:

Here's Baker singing "Bye Bye Blackbird." (You may remember Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard dancing to Joss Stone's much-slower version in the movie Public Enemies.) 

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