Josephine Baker to become first black woman buried in France’s Pantheon monument

The remains of American-born singer and dancer Josephine Baker will be reinterred at the Pantheon monument in Paris, making the entertainer the first black woman to receive the country’s highest honour.

French President Emmanuel Macron is organising a ceremony on 30 November at the Paris monument, which houses the remains of scientist Marie Curie, French philosopher Voltaire, writer Victor Hugo and other French luminaries.

Baker was buried in Monaco following her death in 1975, dressed in a French military uniform with the medals she received for her role as part of the French Resistance during the Second World War.

She will be the fifth woman to be honoured with a Pantheon burial but is the first artist.

Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, one of France’s most revered politicians, was also buried at the Pantheon in 2018.

The other women are two who fought with the French Resistance during the Second World War – Germaine Tillion and Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz – and Nobel Prize-winning chemist Marie Curie.

The monument also holds the remains of 72 men.

Born in St Louis, Missouri, Baker became a megastar in the 1930s, especially in France, where she moved in 1925 as she sought to flee racism and segregation in the US.

Baker quickly became famous for her dance routines and wowed audiences at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees and later at the Folies Bergere in Paris.

She became a French citizen after her marriage to industrialist Jean Lion in 1937.

During the Second World War, she joined the French Resistance. Amid other missions, she collected information from German officials she met at parties and carried messages hidden in her underwear to England and other countries, using her star status to justify her travels.

A civil rights activist, she took part the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom alongside the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, who made his I Have A Dream speech.

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