Josephine Baker honored at France’s Pantheon

Josephine Baker on Tuesday will become the first Black woman, performer and American-born citizen to be honored at the Pantheon monument in Paris, according to The Associated Press.

French President Emmanuel Macron decided in August to pay homage to Baker, calling her an “exceptional figure” and someone who “embodies the French spirit,” the AP noted. 

Macron’s office reportedly stated that the decision to honor Baker seeks to pay tribute to “a woman whose whole life is looking towards the quest of both freedom and justice.”

Baker is recognized for her career in entertainment as well as her impact on the French resistance during World War II and her actions as an activist for civil rights and human rights.

The superstar was born in St. Louis and rose to stardom in the 1930s, particularly in France, where she chose to relocate while fleeing racism and segregation in the U.S., the AP noted. 

“When [Baker] arrived, she was first surprised, like so many African Americans who settled in Paris at the same time … at the absence of institutional racism. There was no segregation … no lynching. [There was] the possibility to sit at a cafe and be served by a white waiter, the possibility to talk to white people, to [have a] romance with white people,” scholar Pap Ndiaye, an expert on U.S. minority rights movements, told the news service.

“It does not mean that racism did not exist in France, but French racism has often been more subtle, not as brutal as the American forms of racism,” added Ndiaye. 

Baker will join the likes of scientist Marie Curie, philosopher Voltaire, writer Victor Hugo and other influential French figures honored at the Pantheon. 

Tags Emmanuel Macron France France Josephine Baker Paris undefined

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