Agent Josephine: American Beauty, French Hero, British Spy
Singer. Actress. Beauty. Spy. During WWII, Josephine Baker, the world’s richest and most glamorous entertainer, was an Allied spy in Occupied France.
Prior to World War II, Josephine Baker was a music-hall diva renowned for her singing and dancing, her beauty and sexuality; she was the highest-paid female performer in Europe. When the Nazis seized her adopted city, Paris, she was banned from the stage, along with all “negroes and Jews.” Yet instead of returning to America, she vowed to stay and to fight the Nazi evil. Overnight, she went from performer to Resistance spy.
In Agent Josephine, bestselling author Damien Lewis uncovers this little-known history of the famous singer’s life. During the war years, as a member of the French Nurse paratroopers—a cover for her spying work—Baker participated in numerous clandestine activities and emerged as a formidable spy. In turn, she was a hero of the three countries in whose name she served—the US, France, and Britain.
Drawing on a plethora of new historical material and rigorous research, including previously undisclosed letters and journals, Lewis upends the conventional story of Josephine Baker, explaining why she fully deserves her unique place in the French Panthéon.
[Recorded on 02 February 2023]