Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect about the false narratives that grew up around this story was the degree to which they clouded, rather than illuminated, our understanding of Baby Esther. That is why, this year, we’re marking Black History Month by honoring the life and career of the extraordinary, and extraordinarily talented, Esther Lee Jones.
Who was Baby Esther?
When Esther returned to the states in 1932, she was on the verge of womanhood. She was still virtually unknown in the states despite having achieved celebrity status in Europe and South America, and she was likely no longer able to pull off the “baby” moniker on which she’d built her career. It was during this period that Baby Esther performed at the famed Cotton Club in Harlem – not as a headliner as is often supposed – but as a member of Cab Calloway’s famed Sepia Dolls dance troupe.