On this day 56 years ago the only woman to be given a turn at the podium to speak was a dignified exceptional woman of courage and immense pride. She was a born an American citizen but when the racism and hatred of this nation were simply too much for her to bear. She moved to Europe for some semblance of equality. While she was in Europe this remarkable black woman who was known for her astounding beauty and talent became a nation's war hero. She assisted in bringing down the Nazi regime that was terrorizing European states and massacring people of the Jewish faith. When she arrived on August 28, 1963, to the podium. She arrived in the uniform of her new home of citizenship, France. The shame of this nation was that color was the sole reason why Freda Josephine Baker, born June 3, 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri wasn't able to live out her dreams in America. She had to cross the Atlantic to become a world-renowned super stage. Her stage talents were immense but more than those talents Josephine Baker was filled with courage and determination not to allow bigotry to stop her from attaining her goals. She strived in her lifetime to erase racial hatred and elevate the cause of humanity. So on this day, The Blackman Who Reads Aloud remembers Ms. Josephine Baker by reading the speech she gave on the Washington Mall, August 28, 1963.
Before Beyonce, Rihanna. Before Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge. Before Halle Berry, Eartha Kitt. Before all the black beauties that graced motion picture screens or entertainment venues, there was Josephine Baker. Josephine Baker was born on June 3, 1905, 114 years ago today. One year after the birth of Dr. Charles Drew. Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis, she was born Freda Josephine McDonald. Josephine Baker lived for 71 years and for those number of years, Josephine Baker was deemed the most beautiful woman who ever graced the planet. No matter the color of that woman's skin.
Multi-talented as a singer, dancer, artist, intellectual, and actress it was no world it seemed that Josephine Baker couldn't conquer except one, that being black in a white Jim Crow'ed America. She was defiant, confrontational, bold, proud, black and truly beautiful. She confronted bigotry in this nation head-on and when she felt that she had enough, Josephine Baker moved to a country that respected her talents and didn't constantly hold her skin color against her. Josephine Baker was a member of the French Resistance during World War 2. Her surveillance efforts against the German and French Nazis were indeed acts of courage. She placed her life on the line to defeat the axis powers of evil. You see Josephine Baker was, in fact, one of the most courageous women that ever lived. She was considered an exotic beauty but in reality, her exotic beauty was generated in many ways by the color of her skin.
Josephine Baker is remembered by most people as the flamboyant African-American entertainer. Josephine Baker earned fame and fortune in the city of Paris, France in the 1920s. Yet through much of her later life, Josephine Baker became a vocal opponent of segregation and discrimination. Josephine Baker often initiating one-woman protests against racial injustice. She often refused to perform in any venue that practiced segregation. Josephine Baker contributed to multiple causes that involved securing the civil and social rights of black peoples all around the world.
On August 28, 1963, at the age of 57, Josephine Baker would make history in Washington DC. Josephine Baker flew into National Airport from Paris, France. The city and country that had become her adopted homeland. She flew to the nation's capital the country of her birth to attend the March for Jobs and Freedom. The march is known historically now as the I Have A Dream March led by Dr. Martin Luther King and multiple civil rights organization throughout the nation. Josephine Baker, dressed in the uniform of the French Resistance was the only woman to address that crowd of 250,000 strong. Today, on Josephine Baker's birthday I read those words she spoke that day. Josephine Baker paved the path for every single black female and male performer that followed her in life. We must never forget her contributions or her courage in confronting the tides of hate that has continued to send waves of bigotry to so many still today.