Josephine Baker: Legendary Entertainer to Become the First Black Woman Buried at Panthéon, Paris

Josephine Baker: Legendary Entertainer to Become the First Black Woman Buried at Panthéon, Paris

  • France will award popular entertainer Josephine Baker one of the highest honours in the country
  • This is after President Emmanuel Macron announced that her remains will be buried at the Panthéon in Paris
  • Baker is remembered for her role in helping the French spy on the Germans during World War II

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that legendary black entertainer Josephine Baker will be buried in France's Panthéon monument.

Baker got French citizenship in 1937 after getting married to industrialist Jean Lion.
Josephine Baker used musical performances and travels as a cover-up for her espionage missions. Photos: Getty Images.
Source: UGC

Having one's remains interred at the respected monument in Paris is one of the highest honours one can receive from the French government, CNN reports.

That puts Baker, who was born in America, among the well-guarded list of individuals who have been offered such esteem and respect.

Artist and anti-racist activist

While making the announcement, Macron revealed that Baker "held high the motto of the French Republic."

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She was hailed for being not only a world-renowned artiste but also one who committed to the resistance and remained a tireless anti-racist activist.

"She was involved in all the fights that bring together citizens of goodwill, in France and around the world," read part of the statement from the Élysée Palace.

The ceremony of honour will be done on November 30 this year, 46 years since her demise.

According to NPR, Baker was adorned in a French military uniform together with the medals she had received the day she was buried in Monaco.

Joins five other women

Apart from being the first black woman to have her remains interred at the monument, Baker also makes history for becoming the sixth woman to receive such honour.

The other five are French Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, scientist Marie Curie, and fighters Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Germaine Tillion, and Sophie Berthelot.

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Berthelot was married to a renowned chemist whose remains are also based at the monument.

The announcement comes at a period France is grappling with criticism over racism against people of colour due to French universalism.

Baker's life and times

Baker was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1906 and started out as a dancer in the US, after which her popularity grew beyond the borders.

She relocated to France where she built a reputation and was invited to play in several successful movies.

Baker became a French citizen in 1937 when she got married to industrialist Jean Lion.

When World War II broke out, Baker became a resource for the French military by offering espionage services.

She did this by listening in on the German's plans whenever she travelled for shows and sending the information home on invisible ink on music sheets.

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Stood against racism

One thing that leaves Baker's legacy etched in many history books is her position on racism in the US, one that she openly spoke against.

The entertainer often gave speeches about segregation and how it affected her in her country of birth.

In one of the speeches, she alluded to the fact that she had wined and dined in palaces with kings, queens and presidents, but it was ironic that she could not be served a beverage at a hotel in America.

Rachel Oniga's passing previously reported that the Nollywood community held a candle procession for one of their own, Rachel Oniga who passed away.

Among those who attended the event was Kate Henshaw, Desmond Elliot, Jide Kosoko, Kunle Afolayan amongst others.

Children of the late Nollywood veteran were later given the sum of N4 million as their contribution from Oniga's industry colleagues.


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