The late American entertainer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker has become the first black woman to join the Pantheon in Paris, France’s highest honour.
Famous entertainer Josephine Baker famously sang that she had two loves – “Jai deux amours” – my country and Paris.
She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but after coming to Paris to perform, she took pleasure in life here, at home free of institutional racism and segregation.
Baker quickly became a darling of Parisian society, as people flocked to perform her in her trademark banana skirt, or in shimmering sequins at the city’s nightspots.
He made France his home, dividing his time between Paris and a fairytale palace he had bought in the southwest of the country.
Baker became French by marriage – and as World War II broke out, she joined the French Resistance, famously saying “I owe myself to France, do whatever you want with me.”
Her fame served her well – she was able to pass on the coded messages in her musical scores without stopping.
He hid the resistance fighters and left the Jews in his palace.
She also fought against racism in America, becoming active in the civil rights movement.
Her family said she was sad that she had to leave the house to be treated the same way.
On Tuesday, she became the first black woman, the first American, and the first professional entertainer to enter the pantheon, reserved as the final resting place for dozens of France’s greatest men, including Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Marie Curie.
The moving ceremony was led by French President Emmanuel Macron, who called Baker an “extraordinary man”, embodying the French spirit.
He said that he fought for the freedom and equality of all.
Outside, his music was playing for the crowds who came to witness this historic moment.
At the request of his surviving children, Baker’s remains will remain in Monaco where he was buried.
Instead, a plaque was erected on a pedestal containing the clay of four places dearest to her heart: St. Louis, Paris, her palace, and Monaco.