Viva la France: My visit with Bessie Coleman and Josephine Baker

Published 12:53 pm Wednesday, June 5, 2019

France — I’ve always wanted to visit there. Seeing the Eiffel Towel, a boat ride on the Seine, eating in an outdoor café and touring the magnificent museums and libraries. Oh, what experiences they would be. Another one would be talking to two of the most brave and daring African-American women in the world-Bessie Coleman and Josephine Baker.

I would ask the women how living in France enabled them the freedom to pursue their goals. There was a slight difference in the ladies situations. Yes, both experienced racism but in Baker’s case she did perform in shows in the States and had success then that love for performing led her to Paris. On the other hand, Coleman knew from the beginning that her desire to learn to fly would not be met if she stayed in America. She was a woman and she was African-American-two strikes that were against her. Moving to France gave her the chance to spread her wings.
Moreover, I would talk about how Baker and Coleman’s being amid French culture inspired their work. I can imagine it must have felt good to be in an atmosphere where you can sing and dance your heart out and fly a Curtiss JN-4D plane with no fear whatsoever; freedom of expression for your passion.

Finally, I would ask the ladies if they believe that racism has evaporated in this country even though the climate currently would suggest otherwise. I believe they would be amazed and pleased that African-American can have a choice to pursue their goals in this country or go overseas to do so. By the way, I would ask to dance and sing a number with Baker (I love to sing) and fly with Coleman in a Curtiss JN-4D plane (as I said previously I want to ride in an airplane).
Judy Moore is a tour guide with The Central Museum and can be reached at