Spokane author Sherry Jones has just published a new book that looks at the incredible life of African American performer Josephine Baker.
Jones' latest novel is called "Josephine Baker’s Last Dance." It is an historical novel that looks at the life of the woman who found international fame as a dancer. But the story is much more than just that of Baker’s dancing prowess.
Jones says when she first began writing the book, she anticipated it would be rather frivolous and light- hearted.
“It turned out to be quite different than I expected. But she was so inspiring, I spent four years working on this book. And what kept me going was the inspiration that was Josephine Baker. Because, in spite of all the obstacles in her life, she prevailed. He did all the things she wanted to do in her life, she dared to dream big, and she made things happen for herself,” Jones said.
Among those things, leaving her life in the United States, journeying to France to become the first person of color to become a superstar entertainer, where her dancing was performed almost in the nude.
Baker dabbled in films, and tried to make a name for herself in America, but could not find the success here she had found in Paris.
Later, she found her talents allowed her to enter the world of intrigue, as she became a spy for the Allies during World War Two.
“She would go to partiesa nd meet German generals and get them to divulge their secrets, and then she would write everything down, in invisible ink on her sheet music, or on pieces of paper she would safety pin to her underwear,” Jones said.
Sherry Jones says in the 1950’s Baker again returned to America to perform, but was insistent that any performances she gave be for an integrated audience. That demand was met by one Miami nightclub.
“The other nightclubs in Miami saw that they were succeeding and they started integrating, too. And she had publicly proclaimed at a press conference that she would not perform in any theater or restaurants that were segregated. She wouldn’t stay in a city that segregated its hotels, and she stayed true to that and she got a lot of places integrated in 1951,” she said.
Josephine Baker’s support for civil rights hit a high point in 1963, when she shared the stage with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington.
Sherry Jones' book, "Josephine Baker’s Last Dance," has been published by Gallery Books, a division of Simon and Schuster.