Socialist Worker

Josephine Baker biography celebrates the rebel behind the singer

by Gabby Thorpe
Issue No. 2552

The graphic novels front cover

Josephine Baker is most recognisable to some in her iconic skirt of rubber bananas as the “first black star of the world stage”.

However, Catel and Boucquet’s graphic novel reveals Baker went beyond being just a singer.

US-born Baker arrived in Paris aged 19 in 1925.

Her fight against segregation and racism after the Second World War makes studying her life a must for activists who strive to do the same today.

The format of the graphic biography is accessible and interesting, especially for those who do not know much about Baker. Cartel and Bocquet have created a work that highlights her irreverence and independence.

It spans her often tragic childhood, her rise to fame, and her work with the French Resistance against the Nazi invasion of France and the Vichy regime.

The reader is invited to experience on some level her rousing speeches against segregation, and her “Rainbow Tribe”. They were a group of orphans she adopted, all of different backgrounds.

Although this biography doesn’t focus enough on Baker’s work as an activist, it is entertaining for those who want to find out more.

At times funny and poignant Josephine Baker is recommended to anyone who is interested in the fight against oppression.

There is much to learn from her devotion to struggle. It will serve as a reminder that we cannot transcend our oppressors, but must instead fight against them.

As a lover of socialist ideas, Baker would be pleased to know that her life has inspired future generations to take up the fight for liberation.

Josephine Baker by Catel Muller and Jose-Louis Bocquet, published by SelfMadeHero, £14.99. selfmadehero.com

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