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Josephine Baker Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1949. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93000).


Baker, Josephine (03 June 1906–12 April 1975), dancer, singer, and civil rights activist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Eddie Carson, a musician, and Carrie Macdonald. Her parents parted when Josephine was still an infant, and her mother married Arthur Martin, which has led to some confusion about her maiden name. Very little is known about her childhood, except that she was a witness to the East St. Louis riot in 1917. This event was often a feature of her talks in the 1950s and 1960s about racism and the fight for equality, which fostered the oft-repeated assertion that the family was resident in East St. Louis. Before the age of eighteen Josephine had been married twice, first to Willie Wells and then to William Baker, to whom she was married in Camden, New Jersey, in September 1921....


Washington, Fredi (23 December 1903–28 June 1994), actress, dancer, and civil rights activist, was born Fredericka Carolyn Washington in Savannah, Georgia, the second child and eldest daughter of Hattie Walker Ward and Robert T. Washington, a porter, part-time barber, and postal worker. Their neighborhood on the outskirts of Savannah was racially mixed, and Fredi remembered being bullied by white children because of her race. Even as a young girl she fought back when a neighbor’s son hurled derogatory epithets at her....