Josephine Baker will become the first Black woman inducted into France’s Panthéon
France is inducting Baker into its Panthéon, the first Black woman honored in the final resting place of France’s most revered luminaries. (AP)
By Theo Zenou
On Tuesday in Paris, Josephine Baker will make history from beyond the grave.
The French American performer, member of the French resistance to the Nazis and anti-racist activist will be inducted into the Panthéon, the mausoleum for national heroes in the heart of the French capital. She is the first Black woman to be honored there.
Only the French president can grant admission to the Panthéon, a select club of 80. Emmanuel Macron decided last August that Baker, who died in 1975, deserved a spot. The Élysée Palace issued a statement describing her as the “personification of the French spirit.”
Baker was born into poverty in St. Louis in 1906. Nothing predestined her for spending eternity under the dome of the Panthéon alongside the likes of Voltaire and Victor Hugo.
But during the 1920s, her sensuous and playful dancing turned her into a global icon. She was the prototypical pop star, a liberated and empowered showgirl who wasn’t afraid to flaunt her sexuality in the face of a prudish society.
She’s the spiritual grandmother of artists such as Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj. Beyoncé actually paid homage to her in a 2006 live performance, donning Baker’s signature “banana dress” in front of a towering portrait of the Jazz Age icon she said she sought to emulate because she “was so free.”
Source: Washington Post
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