Sophie Tucker was an American vaudeville singer whose meteoric career lasted the 80 years of her life. In 1910, after years of amateur performances Tucker was given the opportunity to perform on a legitimate vaudeville stage. The theater owner though said she could only perform in blackface. Much to her chagrin but needing to make a living, she did it. Over the ten years she performed in blackface her color went from 'burnt cork' to 'high yellow'. Once 'high yellow' she then ended her performances by removing her wig to reveal blonde hair, and her gloves to reveal white skin. One day in Chicago, she 'forgot' her makeup and went on as herself. She never used the makeup again.
Click here for information about Sophie's autobiography.
Josephine Baker was an American vaudeville performer who also performed in the legitimate theater in New York City. Her most famous theatrical performance was in the chorus of 1922's Shuffle Along (currently being revived on Broadway) but it was her blackface performances that were noticed and landed her the opportunity to open in La Revue Negre in Paris, France where Baker's erotic performances and infamous banana skirt earned her notoriety and money. Ultimately she gave up her American citizenship and became a French citizen.
In 1951, Baker was invited back to the US for an engagement in Copa City, a nightclub in Miami, Florida. She agreed to the run only if the audience would be segregated. Baker received death threats and bricks were thrown at the club. Tucker, who was booked to play Copa City following Baker, heard this and called a press conference in which she announced she would introduce Josephine Baker so if anyone wanted to do bodily harm to Ms. Baker they'd have to go through Sophie first. Opening night went off without a scuffle, the show received rave reviews, was standing room only and Baker was named the NAACP's Woman Of The Year.
The two icons became friends for life.
For more pictures, see Sophie Tucker & Josephine Baker on Pinterest.