© 2022 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Photo of entertainer Josephine Baker is one to appreciate at the Smithsonian


Aaron Bryant curates photography for the Smithsonian. He recently spoke with NPR about some of his favorite Black photographic subjects. An early image of performer Josephine Baker from the 1920s is high on his list.


AARON BRYANT: But what we could see is a young Josephine Baker on stage with this art deco backdrop of a cityscape behind her, and she's doing the Charleston.


BRYANT: You know, it's really amazing to think that talking about this idea of resilience and fearlessness and willingness to take risk - you have Josephine Baker, who just up and left and moved to Paris, France. I mean, you know, who does that? How easy would that be for us to do today? If you think about it, how easy would it be for you to do to just pack up everything or leave everything behind and go start a new life in a completely different country? And, you know, I even wonder, does she even speak French when she made the decision to leave?


JOSEPHINE BAKER: (Singing in French).

BRYANT: You know, I'm thinking this was happening during the Jazz Age. And, of course, France was instrumental in - no pun intended - in making - you know, bringing jazz to a global stage. Of course, it was African Americans in the military, in fact, who popularized jazz in France. And so by this time, you know, we're looking just several years after the end of World War I. And we have someone like Josephine Baker, who's making a name for herself. You know, it raises questions for me about, who is this woman? What was happening in France at the time, particularly in the context of race and gender? And what was happening in the U.S., you know, her home? And what was her home life like here that she was willing to leave it behind?


BAKER: (Singing in French).

MARTINEZ: Aaron Bryant is curator of visual culture at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, talking about Josephine Baker.


BAKER: (Singing in French). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.