Black LGBT Pioneers You Should Know
BY Michelle Garcia
February 28 2013 8:00 AM ET
Feeling less-than-welcome in her home country, Josephine Baker fled the U.S. for France, where she thrived as a dancer, singer, and actress. She was the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture and to become a world-famous entertainer. She is also noted for her contributions to the civil rights movement in the United States, for assisting the French Resistance during World War II, and for being the first American-born woman to receive the French military honor the Croix de Guerre.
Baker came from a hardscrabble background; she was descended from former slaves, and she was sent out to work at age 8. She dropped out of school at 12 and danced on street corners for handouts. She was recruited for the vaudeville circuit, and her easy combination of humor, grace, and raw sexual energy skyrocketed her to international fame. She became a symbol of the modern age, embodying the lines and grace of an ebony art deco statue.
Clara Smith, Evelyn Sheppard, Bessie Allison, Ada "Bricktop" Smith, and Mildred Smallwood were all women she met while touring on the black performing circuit early in her career, and were all rumored to be her lovers. Other diamonds in her crown were lovers Colette, the French author of Gigi, and iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
- WATCH: One Gay Man's Touching Plea for Equality in Utah
- Timothy Dolan Uncomfortable as Pope Calls for Study of Civil Unions
- South Carolina Legislators Vote to Cut University Funding for Assigning LGBT Books
- Low-Income Apartment Complex for LGBT Seniors Opens in Philadelphia
- Gay-Helmed Sci-Fi Film Space Station 76 Debuts at SXSW
- Op-ed: A Second Look at Bisexuality
- Politics South Carolina Legislators Vote to Cut University Funding for Assigning LGBT Books 4:46 PM
- Politics WATCH: One Gay Man's Touching Plea for Equality in Utah 3:09 PM
- Religion Uncomfortable: Timothy Dolan Versus Pope on Civil Unions 3:04 PM
- Politics WATCH: Low-Income Apartments for LGBT Seniors Open 1:49 PM
- Comedy Johnny and Tara at 30 Rock, Can't Stop With Play-By-Play 1:00 PM
- Comedy 8 Movies Made Better With 'Let It Go' 11:50 AM
- Film Gay-Helmed Sci-Fi Film Space Station 76 Debuts at SXSW March 08 2014 8:15 PM