American Racism European War

Given the current tensions (and the history of tension) in St. Louis, a few quotes about performer, activist and French Resistance fighter Josephine Baker, seemed appropriate.

Also, the following quotes are the reason why these books have been added to my To Read list:

  • Haney, Lynn, Naked at the Feast: The Biography of Josephine Baker (Robson Books: London, 1995).
  • Wood, Ean. The Josephine Baker Story  (Sanctuary Press: United Kingdom, 2000).

“Increasing racial tensions in East St. Louis, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis…Black homes were destroyed, and white mobs attacked and killed black people while the police watched and did nothing. Some blacks tried to fight back, but most of them—about 1,500 in total—fled to St. Louis. Josephine stood by the foot of the bridge, watching them come. She would never forget their panicked and terrified expressions as they rushed desperately across the bridge away from the violent racism that had chased them out.”

Because Josephine seemed to embody everything that was beautiful about African Americans, she was an absolute fascination to Parisians. She was the most photographed woman of 1926 and became a symbol of the decade.

“Before the Germans invaded Paris, Joseph Goebbels had denounced Josephine as a decadent artist. After the invasion, the Germans passed a law that expressly forbade the performance of black or Jewish entertainers. However, none of this mattered to Josephine.

It was in North Africa that Josephine was reminded of the racism that was still rampant in the United States. Before her shows began, she noticed that the white soldiers were always seated in the front and the black soldiers in the back. She refused to perform until the seating was desegregated. It usually was.

She was wearing the FFL uniform when she spoke at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963, just before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his stirring “I Have a Dream” speech.”

Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (Women of Action) by Kathryn J. Atwood

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