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Josephine Baker

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Josephine Baker (June 3, 1906 - April 12, 1975), born Freda Josephine McDonald, was an American-French dancer, actress and singer, sometimes known as “The Black Venus”. Although born American, she became a French citizen in 1937.

Early life

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Carrie McDonald. Her father is identified as vaudeville drummer Eddie Carson by the official biography of her estate. She was of mixed ethnic background: Native American/African American. She descended from Apalachee Indians and Black slaves in South Carolina. [4] She started her career as a busker, dancing in the street as a child. She entered vaudeville joining the St. Louis Chorus at 15. She then headed toward New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, performing at the Plantation Club and in the chorus of the popular Broadway revues Shuffle Along (1921) and The Chocolate Dandies (1924). She performed as the last dancer in a chorus line, a position in which the dancer traditionally performed in a comic manner, as if they were unable to remember the dance, until the encore, at which point they would not only perform it correctly, but with additional complexity. Although she was later to claim that she went unnoticed in America, she was billed as “the highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville.”

On October 2, 1925, she opened in Paris at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, where she became an instant success for her erotic dancing and for appearing practically nude on stage. After a successful tour of Europe, she reneged on her contract and returned to France to star at the Folies Bergère, setting the standard for her future acts.

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