In France, she found fame and freedom after fleeing racism in America. At the height of her career, she led a double life. She became a spy informing on the Nazis. A talented dancer and singer, in 1927, Baker caused a sensation by performing at the Folies Bergère in Paris in a skirt made from bananas. In 1934 she also became the first black woman to star in a major motion picture. Her ongoing popularity in Paris in the forties gave her access to parties, embassies and ministries where high-ranking officials gathered. Rather than simply enjoy her position and focus on her career, Baker used her access to extract valuable top-secret information and pass it on to French military intelligence.
Once the Nazis occupied France, Josephine moved to the South of France and worked with the French Resistance, sheltering refugees and supplying them with visas and other support. Among other ingenious methods, she smuggled military secrets out of Nazi-occupied France and forwarded them to England, written in invisible ink on her sheet music.Nazi guards were so star-struck by Baker, known in various circles as the "Black Pearl," that they let her slip across the borders with no issue. No one suspected that her sheet music was covered with messages written in invisible ink or that her dress contained hidden photographs.
She had many close calls during her time as a spy, but Baker reportedly laughed off the danger, saying, “Who would dare strip-search Josephine Baker?”Her work with the French Resistance earned her the Croix de Guerre and the Lègion d’honneur.The Croix de Guerre, (French: “War Cross”), is a French military decoration created in 1915 and 1939 to reward feats of bravery , either by individuals or groups, in the course of the two World Wars.The National Order of the Legion of Honour, formerly the Royal Order of the Legion of Honour, is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil. Josephine Baker also became the first Black woman laid to rest in France's Pantheon mausoleum, the storied tomb of heroes.