Freda Josephine McDonald, was a French dancer, actress and singer.
She was given the nicknames "Black Venus," "Black Pearl" and "Creole
Goddess." She renounced her American citizenship in 1937 and became a
citizen of France.
Though based in France, she supported the American
Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s, and protested racism in her own
unique way, adopting twelve multi-ethnic orphans, whom she called her
She also refused to perform for segregated audiences
in the United States and worked with the NAACP. For some time she lived
with all of her children and an enormous staff in a castle, Château de
Milandes, in the Dordogne in France.
(Baker had only one child of her
own, stillborn in 1941, an incident that precipitated an emergency
hysterectomy.) In 1963, she spoke at the March on Washington at the side
of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Wearing her Free French
uniform with her Legion of Honor decoration, she was the only woman to
speak at the rally.
As mentioned above on tours of the United States
she refused to perform in segregated nightclubs. Her insistence on mixed
audiences helped to integrate shows in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevertheless,
her career was on a downturn and she was near bankruptcy until she was
bailed out and given an apartment by her close friend, Princess Grace of
Monaco, another expatriate American living in Europe.