Legendary Josephine Baker will be the first black woman in the French Pantheon – .

Legendary Josephine Baker will be the first black woman in the French Pantheon – .

Joséphine Baker will only be the sixth woman to join the 80 or so great national figures in French history at the Pantheon after Simone Veil, a former French minister who survived the Holocaust and fought for the right to abortion , entered in 2018.

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

Baker’s Hall of Fame induction in preparation since 2013

“The pantheonization is built over a long period,” an employee of President Emmanuel Macron told AFP on Sunday, confirming information from Le Parisien newspaper.

Jennifer Guesdon, a member of a group campaigning for Baker’s induction that includes one of the dancer’s sons, said she met 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 has been asking for his induction since 2013, with a petition gathering around 38,000 signatures.

“She was an artist, the first black international star, a muse of the cubists, a resistance fighter during World War II in the French army, active alongside Martin Luther King in the fight for civil rights”, indicates the petition.

Guesdon said the campaign had “introduced people to the businesses of Josephine Baker, who was only known to some as an international star, a great artist,” Guesdon said.

But “she belongs to the Pantheon because she was a resistance fighter,” she added.

From Missouri to Paris

Baker, born in Missouri in 1906 and buried in Monaco in 1975, comes from a poor background and married twice at the age of 15. She then ran away from home to join a vaudeville troupe.

She quickly attracted the attention of a producer who sent her to Paris where at 19 she became the star of the very popular “La Revue Nègre”, which helped popularize jazz and Afro-American culture in France.

She became the highest paid performer on the Parisian music hall scene during the Roaring Twenties.

On November 30, 1937, she married Jean Lion, which allowed her to obtain French nationality. She will divorce him and remarry twice more, adopting 12 children along the way.

In 1939, she joined the French resistance movement, transmitting written information on her musical scores.

She then went on a mission to Morocco and toured the resistance movement, being appointed lieutenant in the female auxiliary corps of the French air force.

She received the Croix de Guerre, a medal of the Resistance, and was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

“I had only one idea in mind… to help France”, she confides in the archives of Ina.

An “anti-racist symbol of France”

Another member of the campaign group, Pascal Bruckner, said Baker “is the symbol of a France which is not racist, contrary to what some media groups say”.

“Josephine Baker is a real anti-racist, a real anti-fascist,” Bruckner told AFP.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot tweeted that Baker was “a valiant and generous woman”, adding that “we owe her this honor”.

The Pantheon is a memorial complex of legendary national figures in French history from the political, cultural and scientific world.

Only the president can decide to move personalities in the old church, whose large columns and domed roof were inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.

© Agence France-Presse


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