Josephine Baker: A Diva’s Diva



Born in 1906, Josephine Baker journeyed the vaudeville roads during her teenage years.  A Black woman, and reminded of it daily, she later sailed for Europe. In Europe, she gleamed like a diamond in her singing performances.  In Paris, as the cabaret seasons passed she kept dazzling her audiences.  She sang, she laughed, she clowned.  But, home was an ocean away. On winter evenings an expatriate, even in a crowd, could feel very lonely.   Sometimes she cried.  And cried.

French artists drew her, photographers snapped pictures of her.  The lithographs were colorful and bawdy.  French politicians gaped at her on the stage and wondered about her America.  Literary lions couldn’t resist writing about her.  The poet e. e. cummings said of her: “She enters through a dense electric twilight, walking backwards on hands and feet, legs and arms stiff, down a huge jungle tree as a creature neither infrahuman nor superhuman but somehow both: a mysteriously unkillable Something, equally non-primitive and uncivilized, or beyond time in the sense that emotion is beyond arithmetic.”

During World War II, she took an active role in the French Resistance, spying on the Nazis. In 1961, she was awarded The French Legion of Honor for her wartime efforts.

Two years later, Josephine Baker attended the March on Washington.   It was a hot and steamy day on the Washington Mall.  Still, she wore her Free French uniform and her Legion medal.   Josephine marched proudly right alongside the Mississippi sharecroppers.  She looked approachable, and regal.  Sammy Davis Jr.’s jaw dropped at the sight of her; he gave her a lift in his limousine afterward.

Josephine Baker died in 1975; since then, with so many people beginning to study and think about her life, she and the story of her life have begun to grow like a monument.

A lengthy account of Josephine Baker’s life and legendary musical achievements has been given in The Washington Post.




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New Evidence Found of Freud’s Affair with His Wife’s Sister

Freud, His Wife, Martha Freud (center) and Her Sister, Minna Bernays (left) in 1929


Rumors of a romantic affair between Freud and his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, who lived with the Freuds for years, have long persisted despite staunch denials by Freud loyalists.  The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, Freud’s disciple and later his rival, claimed that Miss Bernays had confessed to an affair to him.  The claim has long been dismissed by Freudians as malice on Jung’s part.  However, some researchers have even theorized that she may have become pregnant by Freud and have had an abortion.

What had been lacking was any real proof of such an affair.  However, a German sociologist now says that he has found evidence that on Aug. 13, 1898, during a two-week vacation in the Swiss Alps, Freud, then 42, and Miss Bernays, then 33, stayed at the Schweizerhaus, an inn in Maloja, and registered as a married couple.  This is a finding that might well cause historians to re-evaluate their understanding of Freud’s own psychology.

The story is given extensive coverage in today’s New York Times.

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Tennessee Williams’ “Blue Song”: An Update



At the time of my earlier article (reprinted below) on the discovery of Tennessee Williams’ poem “Blue Song,” the entire contents of the poem were not known.  The entire poem is now available:

“I am tired.
I am tired of speech and of action.
If you should meet me upon the
street do not question me for
I can tell you only my name
and the name of the town I was
born in-but that is enough.
It does not matter whether tomorrow
arrives anymore. If there is
only this night and after it is
morning it will not matter now.
I am tired.  I am tired of speech
and of action.  In the heart of me
you will find a tiny handful of
dust.  Take it and blow it out
upon the wind.  Let the wind have
it and it will find its way home.”

The Glass Menagerie: People on the Margins of Society

Recently, a previously unknown poem written by Tennessee Williams (“Blue Song”) was discovered by chance in a New Orleans bookstore.  In 1937, Williams was a troubled young man at Washington University in St. Louis who was about to fail his Greek exam.
At this time, we do not know the entire contents of the poem, but the beginning reads:

“If you should meet me upon a street do not question me for I can tell you only my name and the name of the town I was born in.”

It has been suggested that these beginning lines suggest a despairing state of inner emptiness and a barren sense of self.  This may have been related to a gnawing sense of confusion regarding his sexual identity, or to his desperate attempts not to acknowledge it at that time.

Deeply unhappy and depressed living in St. Louis, he moved to New Orleans two years later, in 1939.  After moving to New Orleans, Williams went on to write plays that included: The Glass Menagerie, Summer and Smoke, A Rose Tattoo, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Camino Real.

The undertone of his writings was always the examination of the passions and forces that drive people who live at the very margins of society.  Tennessee Williams was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Carter for his writing achievements.

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