danced for the public on the streets of St. Louis for nickels
and dimes. She began her dancing career as a 5'-7" tall chorus
girl in a all colored revue in St. Louis called 'Shuffle Along'
at the young age of sixteen. Baker was positioned at the end of
the line and would do some crazy things that were funny during
the choreography, while doing everything everyone else was doing,
she would improvise, crossing her eyes, tripping, getting out
of step etc. and the audience loved it.
age of 15, she married a (Pullman) porter named Baker,
but left him two years later when she ran away from St. Louis
at age 17 to become a star.
She Went to Paris in 1924 and in 1925 appeared
in her first revue titled "La Revue Nègre," danced
in the Follies-Bergere and other various nightclubs. She remained
in France except for occasional trips to the U.S., due to the
poor treatment in the states to
performers, she became a citizen of France. Baker was a civil
rights pioneer and personally involved in racial equality throughout
her life. Baker over the years adopted 11 children which she called
the "Rainbow Tribe" to prove to the world they could
live in racial harmony.
Baker returned to the
states in 1936 to star in the Ziegfeld Follies. She was to become
famous along with her "Banana Dance" routine she first
performed at the Follies Bergere in 1925. During W.W.II,
Baker stayed in North Africa. Baker studied Ballet with George
Ballanchine and Felicia Sobel who later choreographed dances for
her. Baker had been seen dancing at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem,
N.Y. doing the Lindy Hop, which she loved to do.
The French Government
bestowed a memorial to Baker at the same spot where she owned
the 'Chez Josephine' Nightclub in the 1940's which now is a restaurant
owned by Jean-Claude Baker which houses many memorabilia to the
star. She became the first African-American woman to receive unprecedented
honor from the French.