• Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

France to Memorialize Josephine Baker in its Panthéon

Sesh Digital News

PARIS   Forty-six years after her death France will memorialize the late Josephine Baker in its Panthéon in a ceremony held on November 30, which is the anniversary of her marriage to Jean Lion that allowed her to acquire her French citizenship. A coffin filled with soil from places where Baker made her mark will be placed in the mausoleum.

Baker is the first Black woman to be honored in Panthéon in Paris in which the mausoleum serves as the final resting place for many French notables including author Alexandre Dumas and Felix Eboué, the first Black Frenchman appointed to a high post and later named the Governor of Guadeloupe.

President Emmanuel Macron decided this summer to honor the Missouri-born cabaret dancer who served as a French spy and a civil rights activist. By honoring Baker, Macron hopes this sends a message against racism and honors the US-French relationship. Some in France do not think the American-born Baker is a wise choice since several French nationals have worked hard to end racism and discrimination. A few see the honor of France following tradition of crying disgrace of actions oversees but failing to honor those in its backyard.

Born in 1906, Freda Josephine Baker grew up in St. Louis where she left school at age 12. Seeking work as a dancer she would eventually find land a role in the first Black musical on Broadway in 1921. She would later move to France and become an international star known as the “Black Venus.” Her life in France allowed her to escape the realities of racism in the United States, but she would return to work as a civil rights activist and marching with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.

Baker lived a full but scandal-filled life. She would eventually marry and adopt 12 children from around the world which she called her “rainbow tribe.”