One of the many things we love about the St. Louis Walk of Fame is that each of its inductees is a star in more ways than one – and world-renowned dancer, singer, actress and civil rights activist Josephine Baker is no exception!
Baker, whose birthday is today, was born in 1906 in St. Louis. She spent much of her childhood and adolescence rummaging for coal behind Union Station and for food behind Soulard Market. The St. Louis Chorus vaudeville show recruited Baker at age 15 after her street-corner dancing attracted attention.
She went on to appear in the chorus line in several successful Broadway revues during the Harlem Renaissance and eventually became the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture (“Zouzou” in 1934) and to achieve international fame as an entertainer.
Baker, who was especially beloved in France, became a French citizen in 1937, and received full French military honors at her funeral upon her death in 1975 at age 68.
More importantly, however, Baker is known for her contributions to the civil rights movement. She refused to perform in front of segregated audiences, worked extensively with the NAACP and was a speaker alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. during the famous March on Washington in 1963.
Baker was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1990, and her nephew, Richard Martin, accepted the award on her behalf.
The next time you’re in the Delmar Loop, strap on your dancin’ shoes and Charleston down to 6501 Delmar to see her star! And don’t forget you can book her Walk of Fame suite at the Moonrise Hotel.