Josephine Baker started her career performing vaudeville in New York and later was the first black woman to star in a major motion picture, Siren of the Tropics. She went on to perform her vaudeville numbers in Paris and decided to stay, to leave the racism of America. Successful in Paris, she added singing and acting to her career. During World War II she joined the French Military Intelligence Agency. She collected information and kept the notes in invisible ink on sheet music. She was awarded the French Resistance Metal which is depicted in this portrait.
After the war, Josephine took a more active role in the U.S. Civil Rights movement. She wrote articles about segregation and worked closely with NAACP. Performing again in the U.S., she refused to perform in segregated venues, a stance that helped drive integration. In 1963, on the same day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ‘I have a Dream’ speech, Josephine Baker spoke of the equality she witnessed in France. She wanted the same rights in the U.S. and she beseeched the audience to continue the civil rights fight for her.