(Freda Josephine McDonald)
June 3, 1906 – April 12, 1975
1920s and 30s. People pack Parisian nightclubs to see the "Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", the "Creole Goddess": Josephine Baker. Baker, who often dances practically nude, captivates the minds of many, from Pablo Picasso, to F. Scott Fitzgerald, to Ernest Hemingway.
So you know where this is heading, right? This is where we proclaim Josephine as surprisingly Jewish, and...
Well, not so fast. Although Baker wasn't Jewish herself, there is a lot of debate about the identity her father. It's highly possible that he was white, and it's also been reported that he was Jewish. No one can say for sure. She was also briefly married to a French Jew in the 1930s...
What's even more fascinating is what Baker did later in life. After spending part of World War II spying for the French government, she moved to the south of France. Baker then adopted twelve children of various ethnicity: a Korean, an Algerian, a Finn... This was her way to fight racism. And, yes, a Jew was part of the so-called "Rainbow Tribe". Baker even hired a rabbi to tutor him. So one can say that even though she wasn't Jewish herself, she was a Jewish wife and a Jewish mother.
So much for the "Creole Goddess"?
Verdict: Sadly, not a Jew.
June 9, 2011