Jazz singer Joséphine Baker, first black woman honored at the Panthéon de France

PARIS, November 30 (Reuters) – Famous Franco-American singer and dancer Joséphine Baker was inducted into the Pantheon mausoleum in Paris on Tuesday – one of France’s highest honors – during a ceremony attended by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Baker, who also served in the French Resistance during World War II and was a prominent civil rights activist after the war, is the first black woman and the sixth woman to enter the Pantheon, a Parisian monument towering over the Latin Quarter of the city.

She was “a black woman who defended blacks, but above all she was a woman who defended humanity,” Macron said in a speech.

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He spoke shortly after Baker’s most famous song, “J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris” (“J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris”), was performed at the ceremony. .

An image of Josephine Baker is projected onto the Pantheon monument during her induction ceremony in Paris, France, November 30, 2021. Thibault Camus / Pool via REUTERS

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Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1906, but continued to find much of her fame after arriving in Paris in the 1920s, as many black Americans remained in the French capital after World War I. and brought American jazz with them. culture.

Baker, who became a French citizen in 1937, died in 1975 and is buried in Monaco.

As per his family’s wishes, Baker’s remains were not moved to the Pantheon. To represent his presence there, a symbolic coffin was carried into the mausoleum by six bearers containing handfuls of soil from four locations: Saint-Louis, Paris, Monaco and Milandes, in the Dordogne department of France, where Baker owned a castle.

Baker’s empty coffin will rest alongside other French national icons in the mausoleum such as authors Emile Zola and Victor Hugo, philosopher Voltaire and politician Simone Veil.

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Report by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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