First black woman to enter French Panthéon of heroes

French performer Joséphine Baker will be entered into Paris’ Panthéon mausoleum, making her the first black woman to receive the honour.

The government says Baker will be inducted into the monument in November.

The Panthéon is a burial place for celebrated French icons such as scientist Marie Curie and writer Victor Hugo.

Baker will be just the sixth woman to join some 80 national heroes.

Born in United States in 1906, Baker rose to international stardom in the 1930s after moving to France to pursue a career in showbusiness.

She was also a resistance fighter for her adopted country France during World War Two, and had a role in the civil rights movement in the US.

Her induction into the Panthéon recognises her contribution to the performing arts and her courage in actively resisting Nazi Germany during the war.

While her body will remain buried in Monaco, she will be honoured on 30 November with a memorial with a plaque, one of her children, Claude Bouillon-Baker, told AFP news agency.

Baker enjoyed roaring success on the stage in the 1920s and 30s, wowing audiences with her provocative dance routines in Paris.

But it was her war-time work for the resistance that cemented her status in France, where she became a citizen after her marriage to industrialist Jean Lion in 1937.

Baker used her celebrity connections to gather information on German troop movements which she passed on, scribbled on musical scores.

Throughout her life, Baker was an outspoken anti-racism activist.

In 1963, she took part in the March on Washington alongside civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, when he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Baker died in 1975 and received French military honours at her funeral.

BBC/Agencies

 

Featured Image: France is awarding one of its highest honours to Joséphine Baker [Photo BBC/Getty Image]

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