WORLD Josephine Baker to be first black woman in France's Pantheon mausoleum


Josephine Baker to be first black woman in France's Pantheon mausoleum

Global Times

18:59, August 23, 2021

Gendarmes salute the hearse of the hero officer Arnaud Beltrame outside the Pantheon in Paris, France on March 28, 2018. (Photo: Xinhua)

Josephine Baker, the famed French-American dancer, singer and actress who fought in the French resistance during the WWII and later battled racism, will later in 2021 become the first black woman to enter France's Pantheon mausoleum.

Baker will be just the sixth woman to join the around 80 great national figures of French history in the Pantheon after Simone Veil, a former French minister who survived the Holocaust and fought for abortion rights, entered in 2018.

Although US-born Baker's body will remain in Monaco where she is buried, she will be honored on November 30 with a memorial with a plaque, one of her children, Claude Bouillon-Baker, told AFP.

"Pantheonization is built over a long period of time," an aide to President Emmanuel Macron told AFP on Sunday, confirming a report in the Le Parisien newspaper.

Jennifer Guesdon, part of a group campaigning for Baker's induction that includes one of the dancer's sons, said they met with Macron on July 21.

"When the president said yes, [it was a] great joy," she said.

"It's a yes!" Macron said after the July meeting, Le Parisien reported.

The Baker family have been requesting her induction since 2013, with a petition gathering about 38,000 signatures.

Guesdon said the campaign has "made people discover the undertakings of Josephine Baker, who was only known to some as an international star, a great artist," Guesdon said.

But "she belongs in the Pantheon because she was a resistance fighter," she added.

Baker, who was born in Missouri in 1906 and buried in Monaco in 1975, came from a poor background and was married twice by the age of 15.

She then ran away from home to join a vaudeville troupe.

She quickly caught the eye of a producer, who sent her to Paris where at the age of 19 she became the star of the hugely popular La Revue Negre, which helped popularize jazz and African-American culture in France.

She became the highest-paid performer in the Paris music hall scene during the Roaring Twenties.

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