First Paris burial honor for a Black woman

Published : August 23, 2021 16:07 IST

French President Emmanuel Macron has backed a petition to have U.S.-born entertainer and freedom fighter, Josephine Baker, interred at the Pantheon Mausoleum in Paris.

Black French-American entertainer and WWII resistance fighter Josephine Baker will be interred in France’s Pantheon Mausoleum after a successful petition.

France will bestow one its highest honors on famed Black French-American entertainer, Josephine Baker. A request to have her remains interred in the Pantheon Mausoleum has been approved.

An aide to Emmanuel Macron confirmed to AFP that the ceremony would take place on November 30. "This is a great lady, who loved France, who will enter the Pantheon. Thank you to Emmanuel Macron for this tribute," French minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher wrote on Twitter following news of the decision.

Who was Josephine Baker?

Baker began life in Missouri, USA in 1906. She arrived in Paris in the 1920s and would go on to become one of the most popular entertainers of her time. When World War II broke out, Baker served with the Red Cross and was a member of the Free French, a resistance movement, that against the odds, continued battling the Nazis in occupied France.

Baker was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour for her efforts. She would go on to live in Southwestern France and adopted children of all nationalities. Baker left show business and would make repeated trips to the USA to take part in civil rights protests. Baker died in 1975 and was buried in Monaco.

Pantheonization, one of France's highest honors

The pantheon Mausoleum is a Parisian memorial and induction into the complex is reserved for national figures in France. The president is the only one who can decide who gets moved to the memorial which was inspired by Rome's Pantheon.

The family has been requesting her induction since 2013, running a petition that gathered around 38,000 signatures. "She was an artist, the first Black international star, a muse of the cubists, a resistance fighter during WWII in the French army, active alongside Martin Luther King in the civil rights fight," the petition said.

Baker will become the first Black woman to be laid to rest in the memorial. Only five of the 80 personalities interred are women.

kb/mm (AFP, Reuters)