En: Josephine Baker

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Wardens' Night

at Federal Lodge is coming up Monday, Oct. 28! Special program for the evening will be "Josephine Baker—Masonic Hero," and it is open to non-Masonic guests. All brethren in the area are invited to attend, especially those who are seated wardens in their lodges.

Josephine Baker was an American-born French singer, dancer, actress, resistance fighter in World War II, and civil rights leader who spoke at the 1963 March on Washington at the side of Martin King. Her special relationship to the Masonic fraternity will be revealed during this fascinating talk.

Dinner is served at 6:30, with the lodge tiling at 7:30 and recessing immediately after opening for the open program. Reservations are requested and may be made by contacting the Junior Warden at davidbensondc (at) gmail.com.


Josephine Baker

Source: Wikipedia

(June 3, 1906 – April 12, 1975) was an American-born French dancer, singer, and actress who came to be known in various circles as the "Black Pearl," "Bronze Venus" and even the "Creole Goddess". Born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri, Josephine later became a citizen of France in 1937. She was fluent in both English and French.

Baker was the first African-American female to star in a major motion picture, Zouzou (1934), to integrate an American concert hall, and to become a world-famous entertainer. The multi-talented international star, who refused to perform for segregated audiences in America, is also noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. She was once offered unofficial leadership in the movement in the United States by Coretta Scott King in 1968, following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Baker, however, turned down the offer. She was also known for assisting the French Resistance during World War II, and received the French military honor, the Croix de guerre.


Career

Early years

Baker dropped out of school at the age of 12 and lived as a street child in the slums of St. Louis, sleeping in cardboard shelters and scavenging for food in garbage cans. Her street-corner dancing attracted attention and she was recruited for the St. Louis Chorus vaudeville show at the age of 15. She then headed to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance, performing at the Plantation Club and in the chorus of the groundbreaking and hugely successful Broadway revenues Shuffle Along (1921) with Adelaide Hall and The Chocolate Dandies (1924). She performed as the last dancer in a chorus line, a position where the dancer traditionally performed in a comic manner, as if she were unable to remember the dance, until the encore, at which point she would not only perform it correctly but with additional complexity. Baker was then billed as "the highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville".


Civil rights activism

Although based in France, Baker supported the American Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s. When she arrived in New York with her husband Jo they were refused reservations at 36 hotels because she was black. She was so upset by the treatment that she wrote articles on the segregation in the United States and began traveling farther south. She gave a talk at the all-black Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, her subject being "France, North Africa And The Equality Of The Races In France". In addition, she refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States even after she was offered $10,000.[4] Her insistence on mixed audiences helped to integrate shows in Las Vegas, Nevada, then one of the most segregated cities in America. After this incident, she began receiving threatening phone calls from the Ku Klux Klan but stated that she was not afraid of them.

In 1951, Baker made charges of racism against Sherman Billingsley's Stork Club in Manhattan, where she alleged that she had been refused service. Actress Grace Kelly, who was at the club at the time, rushed over to Baker, took her by the arm and stormed out with her entire party, vowing never to return (although she did in fact appear there on January 3, 1956 with Prince Rainier of Monaco).

The two women became close friends after the incident.Testament to this was made evident when Baker was near bankruptcy and was offered a villa and financial assistance by Kelly (who by then was princess consort of Rainier III of Monaco). (However, during his work on the Stork Club book, author and New York Times reporter Ralph Blumenthal was contacted by Jean-Claude Baker, one of Josephine Baker's sons. Having read a Blumenthal-written story about Leonard Bernstein's FBI file, he indicated that he had read his mother's FBI file and, using comparison of the file to the tapes, said he thought the Stork Club incident was overblown.

Baker worked with the NAACP. In 1963, she spoke at the March on Washington at the side of Martin Luther King, Jr. Baker was the only official female speaker and while wearing her Free French uniform emblazoned with her medal of the Légion d'honneur she introduced the "Negro Women for Civil Rights.

"Rosa Parks and Daisy Bates were among those she acknowledged and both gave brief speeches. After King's assassination, his widow Coretta Scott King approached Baker in Holland to ask if she would take her husband's place as leader of the American Civil Rights Movement. After many days of thinking it over, Baker declined, saying her children were "too young to lose their mother".

Baker's reputation as a crusader grew to such an extent that the NAACP had Sunday 20 May 1951 declared Josephine Baker Day. She was presented with life membership of the NAACP by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Ralphe Bunche. The honor she was paid spurred her to further her crusading efforts with the "Save Willie McGee" rally and the 1948 beating of the furniture shop owner in Trenton, New Jersey. As Josephine became increasingly regarded as controversial, even many blacks began to shun her, fearing that her reputation would hurt their cause.


Later years and death

In 1964, Josephine Baker sold her castle after Princess Grace offered her an apartment in Roquebrune, near Monaco.

Baker was back on stage at the Olympia in Paris in 1968, in Belgrade in 1973, at Carnegie Hall in 1973, at the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in 1974 and at the Gala du Cirque in Paris in 1974. On April 8, 1975, Baker starred in a retrospective revue at the Bobino in Paris, Joséphine à Bobino 1975, celebrating her 50 years in show business. The revue, financed notably by Prince Rainier, Princess Grace, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, opened to rave reviews. Demand for seating was such that fold-out chairs had to be added to accommodate spectators. The opening-night audience included Sophia Loren, Mick Jagger, Shirley Bassey, Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli.

Four days later, Baker was found lying peacefully in her bed surrounded by newspapers with glowing reviews of her performance. She was in a coma after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. She was taken to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, where she died, aged 68, on April 12, 1975.

Her funeral was held at L'Église de la Madeleine. The only American-born woman to receive full French military honors at her funeral, Baker locked up the streets of Paris one last time. She was interred at the Cimetière de Monaco in Monte Carlo.