Home WORLD EUROPA Joséphine Baker, the first black woman to enter the French Pantheon

Joséphine Baker, the first black woman to enter the French Pantheon


Its cenotaph (tomb not containing the body), carried by aviators, entered the Pantheon in front of 8,000 spectators, according to the Élysée Palace, before being installed in one of the vaults of the crypt.

The artist’s remains will remain in the Monaco marine cemetery, not far from the tomb of Princess Grace, who had supported her in the last years of her life.

Under the watchful and moving eye of nine of her children, many politicians, artists and citizens, the icon of the Roaring Twenties, born in 1906 in the United States before adopting French nationality, thus became the sixth woman on 80 illustrious characters to be welcomed in this neo-classical building in the heart of Paris, and whose pediment proclaims Great men the grateful country.

My France is Joséphine, launched French President Emmanuel Macron, who hailed a war heroine, fighter, dancer, singer, a Black defending black people, but first, a woman defending mankind.

His son Brian Bouillon Baker said he saw a a sign of hope and a message for the younger generations. I hope that his messages of tolerance and openness to others will be heard by the French, added Marianne Zinzer, one of his daughters.: love, understanding and tolerance. “,” text “:” His Pantheon was: love, understanding and tolerance. “}}”>His Pantheon was: love, understanding and tolerance.

Josephine Baker sings on stage.

Joséphine Baker makes her debut at the Pantheon

Photo: Getty Images / Fox Photos

Human dignity

On the facade of the secular building, images of his life were broadcast, to the enthusiastic applause of the public who heard, once again, the voice of the artist presenting himself as a person adopted by France. And when a journalist at the time asks her why she chose the Resistance against the Nazi occupation, Ms. Baker answers soberly: To defend the person, human dignity.

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His entry into the Pantheon comes 46 years after his death, on April 12, 1975 at the age of 68, three days after having celebrated his golden anniversary on the stage. It thus joins the pantheonized French, mostly statesmen, war heroes or writers: Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, the resistant Jean Moulin, Marie Curie …

The cenotaph, covered with the French flag, will stay all night in the nave of the Pantheon. On Wednesday, during a family ceremony, it will be installed in vault 13 of the crypt, where the writer Maurice Genevoix is ​​already located.

I have two loves … My country and Paris

Born in poverty in the United States, the young woman fled segregation and settled in France. She delights the All-Paris by dancing the Charleston, topless, in an outburst of jazz drums. At the Folies Bergère cabaret, the Ebony venus plays on colonial fantasies by performing wearing a simple banana belt, alongside a living panther.

Josephine Baker in military uniform

Joséphine Baker served in World War II in the French Volunteer Corps.

Photo: Getty Images / Hulton Archive

The first song she performed, I have two loves … My country and Paris, in 1930 at the Casino de Paris, consecrates it.

Naturalized French in 1937 by marrying a Jewish industrialist, the star used her musical talent from the first months of the conflict to entertain French soldiers on the front lines. And take advantage of the receptions to which she is invited in embassies and foreign countries to gather intelligence.

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It is France which made me what I am, I will keep him an eternal gratitude, she argues by agreeing to serve the counter-espionage of the Free French Forces. She transmitted to London hidden reports in sympathetic ink in her scores, which earned her the Medal of the Resistance and the Croix de Guerre.

Enlisted in North Africa in the Air Force, Joséphine Baker landed in Marseille in October 1944. In May 1945, she performed in Germany in front of deportees released from the camps.

Mother of a rainbow tribe

Josephine Baker welcomed as she got off the plane by her children.

Josephine Baker welcomed in Paris in 1956 by her children Claude, Georges and San.

Photo: intercontinental / afp via getty / –

Our mother served the country, she is an example of republican and humanist values, corn: “I only did what was normal ” “,” text “:” she always said: “I only did what was normal ” “}}”>she always said: “Me, I only did what was normal”his eldest son, Akio Bouillon, told AFP.

All the rest of her life, she fights against discrimination. With her fourth husband, she becomes the mother of a rainbow tribe of 12 children adopted from all over the world, whom she raises in her castle in the Dordogne.

In 1963, in Washington, she spoke after Martin Luther King and his famous I have a dream. This march for the civil rights of black Americans was the best day of his life, she confided.

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