The courage of Josephine Baker in Miami in 1951

Audio 02:38

Joséphine Baker, in concert in Miami, United States, in 1951. © Getty Images / Ray Fisher

By: David Thomson

2 min

Black, bisexual, anti-racist and feminist ... In the 1920s, Joséphine Baker left her native Missouri, marked by the race riots of her childhood, to settle in France, where her "wild dance" made her an icon of Crazy years.

After the war and her involvement in the Resistance, Joséphine Baker returned to the United States for a tour during which she did not hesitate to stand up against segregation.

Her visit to Miami in 1951 is a milestone: the dancer imposes to perform in front of an audience made up of blacks AND whites.

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It reigns like a scent of the mad year in the lobby of the National Hotel, one of Miami Beach's last art deco establishments.

A young African-American singer takes up the standards of Joséphine Baker.

Bianca Rosario remembers the musical but also the political heritage of the first black icon of the music hall. 

"

She fought for our civil rights, for the equality of all, she was really a pioneer, a strong woman for her time,"

explains Bianca Rosario.

It is thanks to her, thanks to her work that I sing and that I am here today.

She opened many doors for us as African-American women

Miami Beach has not forgotten this memorable tour of Josephine Baker in 1951. One of the most prominent venues of the time, the Copa City Club, wants to bring the limelight.

But in this city in the southern United States, segregation is still strictly enforced.

So Joséphine Baker, faithful to her anti-racist commitments, accepts to play only on one condition: that the audience is not segregated.

A courageous and landmark choice, as explained by Dan Gelber, the mayor of Miami Beach.

It was very daring for its time. You have to imagine that here, until the 1960s, if you were black, you had to present an identity card to enter our city at night. All the establishments, all the clubs were segregated. You had restaurants for whites and restaurants for blacks, toilets for whites, others for blacks. We were a city in the deep south. So the town hall had to choose between its segregationist laws and the right decision. And she finally accepted Miss Baker's request and cleared a diverse audience. It was no small feat for the time. So having Miss Baker telling us, you have to change your way of doing things otherwise I won't play with you, that was really something,

 ”he says.

And yet, today, Joséphine Baker remains much better known in France where she has spent most of her life than in the United States where she was born.

In Miami, all the festivities for his entry into the Pantheon are organized by the

Consulate of France

.

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