"The Unwritten History": Alexander Gumby's African America

Gumby's People > Josephine Baker


Scrapbook 8:
"Josephine Baker,"
p. [57]

Josephine Baker was the premiere African-American female dancer of the 1920s, who added fame as a singer and a civil rights advocate over the course of a long career that stretched into the 1970s. After coming up as a chorus girl in touring companies and eventually on Broadway, Baker established her lasting worldwide fame when she moved to Paris in 1925 to be featured in La Revue NĂ©gre. In addition to introducing Baker to an international audience, this cabaret show also helped to influence a burgeoning European and American infatuation with art inspired by African diasporic culture--albeit one tinged with primitivist outlooks.

Baker further solidified her reputation in these circles with several other Paris-based revues during the 1920s and 1930s. Premier among these follow-up shows was La Folie du Jour, which included a dance for which Baker notoriously wore nothing but a girdle made out of bananas. This production is memorialized in the program that Gumby collected and mounted in his scrapbook devoted to Baker's long career. Baker's portrait is framed by a cut-out in the cover; the full image on the first interior page includes another of her risque outfits, this one composed of feathery boas.


Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. East / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5153 / rbml@libraries.cul.columia.edu