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Josephine Baker to be first Black woman to receive France’s highest honor

Legendary singer and dancer Josephine Baker will become the first Black woman to receive France’s highest honor when her remains are buried at the Pantheon monument in Paris this fall, The Associated Press reported.

French President Emmanuel Marcon confirmed that Baker’s remains will be buried inside of the monument, making her the fifth woman and first entertainer to be presented with this honor. 

Baker, who died in 1975, will be honored in a ceremony on Nov. 30.

Baker joins Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Marie Curie, and French Resistance fighters Germaine Tillion and Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz in the monument, according to the AP. 

Baker, a St.Louis, Mo., native, migrated to France in 1925 to escape racial segregation in the U.S. While there, she established herself as a megastar in the 1930s for her famed dance routines.

Baker, who became a naturalized French citizen through marriage in 1937, later joined the French Resistance, becoming an informant during World War II. She used her performer status to gather messages from Nazi German officials during parties in the war, the AP reported. 

Baker returned to the U.S. and played a key part as an activist during the civil rights movement, marching alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Tags Entertainers France Josephine Baker Paris World War II

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