Ballsy History

Episode 15: "Who's Spying Now?"

February 23rd, 2021

Josephine Baker’s career was centered in Europe because of the racism she faced in the US. She became the most successful entertainer in her beloved France, transforming over time from an exotic dancer into a film star and opera singer. She was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, the 1927 silent film Siren of the Tropics; and, at the height of her career, it is believed she was the wealthiest black woman alive.

Far more than just an entertainer, during WWII Josephine was active in the French Resistance. Known as the “creole goddess,” she used her celebrity to gain access to high-ranking Axis officials and told her resistance colleagues who thought her actions were sometimes too bold, “Oh, nobody will think I’m a spy.”

Back in the US several times after the war, she became involved with the Civil Rights Movement and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She also spoke alongside Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1963 March on Washington.

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