Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Baker became a megastar in the 1930s, especially in France, where she moved in 1925 as she was seeking to flee racism and segregation in the United States.
Baker quickly became famous for her “banana skirt” dance routines and wowed audiences at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees and later at the Folies Bergere in Paris.
She became a French citizen after her marriage to industrialist Jean Lion in 1937.
During World War II, she joined the French Resistance. Amid other missions, she collected information from German officials she met at parties and carried messages hidden in her underwear to England and other countries, using her star status to justify her travels.
A civil rights activist, she took part in 1963 in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who made his “I Have A Dream” speech.
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