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6/29/15

Josephine Baker's Rainbow Tribe

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Taking French citizenship in 1937, Josephine Baker (1906–1975) was celebrated across Europe, especially in France, where she was known as La Baker. Treated as a "colored" woman in her native United States, she decided to adopt and raise children of various ethnic backgrounds. From all over the world she brought them to her Château des Milandes in France's Périgord region. They became her Rainbow Tribe. Of Japanese origin, Akio Bouillon was one of them. From Finland, Jarry Baker was another.

"On the surface, the children seemed to have a dream childhood. They were living in a castle, like children in a fairy tale.
They played with knights' armor tucked into nooks along the spiral steps to the tower, romped in the gardens, built tree houses and frolicked with the dogs. Akio remembers that he and his brothers often caught flying beetles and tied them to strings to keep them from flying away. The children carried them around like balloons."

"On the occasional Sunday when she was there, Baker would dress the children in white and have them line up in the courtyard, where tourists and the press were waiting behind a fence to take pictures. Jarry says that he and the other children sometimes felt like pet monkeys."

"Baker traveled the world with the children. They met the pope and vacationed with Cuban leader Fidel Castro."

"She threw herself into her work, discovering a new passion in World War II. She supported the French resistance movement, and was given a uniform and awarded many decorations. By then, Baker was rich and famous, and yet there was still a gaping hole in her life." More on the Rainbow Tribe

Josephine Baker's Banana Dance at the Folies Bergère in Paris, about 1927:

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