Mixed Messages: An Analysis of Correspondence and Representations of Josephine Baker Open Access

Monroe, Morgan Britt (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/cc08hg28d?locale=en


The Josephine Baker Papers offer new revelations into the personal life and correspondence of an enigmatic star. Exploring these unprocessed archives opened a window to the mind and inner workings of the star during the latter half of her life not many have accessed. Seeing how Baker spoke to her closest colleagues, friends, and business acquaintances helps shape the narrative on the beautiful star outside of her professional life. In the letters ranging from the years 1938 to 1968, we witness the trajectory of the star from extravagance to financial demise.This thesis combines archival, photographic, and cultural elements to analyze the complex and at times ambivalent images of Baker. Each of the chapters is enhanced by an analysis of photographs or images of Baker. A close interpretation of these images adds a new layer of depth to our understanding of the inherent contradictions in the star's representations. We see Baker as the ultimate sex symbol as well as a figure of the Resistance; as a famous fashion icon as well as a destitute; as a socialite of high-society as well as an outsider at the fanciest establishments; as an exotic animal as well as a demure mother of twelve. The two sources of my research, the Emory University archives and cultural representations of Baker intersect to provide a novel analysis of the star's image.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


1. Introduction: Letters as a Lens 1

2. Black, White, and Green 7

3. Losing at Love 24

4. Rainbow Tribe and Financial Demise 37

5. Beastly Treasure 52

6. Conclusion 73

7. Works Cited 77

8. List of Illustrations 83

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