Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, & Ella Fitzgerald's transnational power compromises, 1906-1996
Lefkovitz, Aaron E.
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Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald's transnational power compromises reveal the ongoing dilemma of a female performer of color's compromised racial, gender, and colonial power. To respond to this dilemma, Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald address a female performer of color's power compromises, or give and take, back and forth struggles for control. Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald's compromised power and power compromises connect to additional female performers of color, whose Hollywood films, international exchanges, and popular music provided opportunities for greater self-determination while exploiting the exoticism of female performers of color's racial, gender, and colonial differences. Adding film and popular music to black transnational and global gender biographies, Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald link film and popular music to histories of the US and global color line, hetero-patriarchy, and US, French, and Orientalist colonialism. I ask, can Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald's power compromises enlarge ideas of power beyond an either/or binary of oppression versus defiance? How can Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald's power compromises contribute to an understanding of film and popular musical stereotypes' impact on a female performer of color's compromised power? In new research, I add primary sources describing Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald's power compromises with 20 th century white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and colonialism. This includes articles from the African-American press detailing Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald's rebel, transnational sojourns, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Manuscripts, Archives, Rare Books, Photographs, and Prints Divisions, Harvard University Houghton Library Josephine Baker Papers, Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies Press Collection, Ella Fitzgerald archives, housed in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and Library of Congress, NAACP lynching records as they pertain to "Strange Fruit," Billie Holiday's anti-racist anthem, and Josephine Baker and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1960s correspondence, housed in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change Archives. I also incorporate Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald's film, television, and popular musical stereotypes, photographs, Art Deco lithographs, and novels, plays, poetry, and contemporary tributes evoking each performer. My Introduction centers Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald's compromised power and power compromises in a broader context of ways female performers of color have lost and gained power and compare and contrast my dissertation with previous literature centering each performer. Chapter One presents Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald's foundational, biographical outline. It follows Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald from their poor and abusive childhoods to international fame, placing their performative histories in broader white supremacist, hetero-patriarchal, and US, French, and Orientalist colonial contexts. My next three chapters detail Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald's racial, hetero-patriarchal, and US, French, and Orientalist colonial power compromises, with a particular focus on their cinematic and popular musical stereotypes. Chapter Two emphasizes Josephine Baker's French colonial chanson (French song) " Si J'étais Blanche ," or "If I Were White" and her relationships to Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, and contemporary female performers of color Beyoncé and Janet Jackson. This chapter examines Billie Holiday's links to the Motown record label, 1970s Blaxploitation films, and film stereotypes of female performers of color before and after her, seen in her films Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life (1935), New Orleans (1947), and Lady Sings the Blues (1972). It also centers the racial power Holiday gained by singing the anti-racist "Strange Fruit" in Jim Crow America and 1950s Europe. Chapter Two concludes with a discussion of the racial, Southern, and Chicago politics of Ella Fitzgerald's 1956 Louis Armstrong duet "Stars Fell on Alabama" and her performance in her final film, Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960). Chapter Three focuses on Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald's compromises with 20th century hetero-patriarchy in the film and music industries and broader US and international cultures. It highlights HBO's The Josephine Baker Story (1991) and this docudrama's perpetuation of Baker's film stereotypes and comparisons and contrasts between Billie Holiday's power compromises with mid-20 th century hetero-patriarchy and those of Nina Simone, blues and jazz women, 1960s girl groups, and female rappers. Chapter Three concludes with a discussion of the shifting yet constant gender roles Ella Fitzgerald performs in her films Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), St. Louis Blues (1958), and Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960) and the male gazes she negotiates in these films from leading men Jack Webb, of Dragnet fame, and Nat "King" Cole. Chapter Four illuminates Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald's US, French, and Orientalist colonial power compromises, beginning with Baker's French colonial films Siren of the Tropics (1927), Zou Zou (1934), and Princess Tam-Tam (1935) and chansons " J'ai Deux Amours, " or "I Have Two Loves," " Ma Petite Tonkinoise ," " Haiti ," " Sous le Ciel d'Afrique ," or "Under the African Sky," and " Aux Iles Hawaii. " This chapter places Baker in a legacy of caricatures of Hawaii as a tropical paradise and cinematic and popular musical Orientalism, or ways of looking at North African, Middle Eastern, and South and East Asian cultures in stereotypical ways. Chapter Four chronicles Billie Holiday's 1950s rebel, European sojourns, when Holiday performed the anti-colonial "Strange Fruit," exposing white supremacy in the US while the State Department "Jazz Ambassadors" were dispatched to export "America's classical music" to non-aligned, Global South populations. This final chapter concludes with Ella Fitzgerald's participation in Native American cinematic stereotypical legacies in her film Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942) and her exportation of jazz to Japan, continuing that nation's century-long jazz interests. In Conclusion , I contend Baker, Holiday, and Fitzgerald assist in understanding ways white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and colonialism changed throughout the 20 th century, film and popular music's relationships to these oppressions, and how white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and US, French, and Orientalist colonialism compromised each performer's power and roles they played in their power compromises.