Joséphine Baker, a Free France in the Pantheon



Its history, its artistic career have been a strong symbol of the 20th century; the entry of Josephine Baker (1906-1975) into the Pantheon, announced this Sunday, August 22, could well constitute another for the 21st century. The transfer of the remains of the Franco-American artist from the cemetery of Monaco was set for November 30 – date of his marriage to Jean Lion in 1937, which allowed him to obtain French nationality -, on a decision of President of the Republic.

→ READ. Joséphine Baker, the fighter

This request for pantheonization had been carried by the Baker family since 2013, and a support committee of several personalities was formed, with singer Laurent Voulzy, essayist Laurent Kuperman, entrepreneur Jennifer Guesdon and Brian Bouillon-Baker, one of the sons of the star of the music hall of the Roaring Twenties, who became Resistant of Free France and then engaged in the fight for civil rights and anti-racism.

A petition, ” Dare Josephine Baker “, Which has nearly 40,000 signatories, was also launched two years ago, defending the place in the Pantheon from this” artist, first black international star, muse of the cubists, resistant during World War II in the French Army, active alongside Martin Luther King for civil rights in the United States of America and in France alongside the Lica », The International League against Anti-Semitism, which later became Licra: International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism.

From the Resistance to the struggle for civil rights

We must remember the homage paid to France by this American who arrived in 1925, came from a country reserved for whites, and who felt liberated in Paris, where she could go to the hairdresser, take a taxi, work, where no one refused her for her skin color, entrusted to The cross the writer Pascal Bruckner, member of the support committee. This pantheonization pays homage to a woman who chose France deliberately, who expressed her love to her, who fought for her from the start of the war. She took up arms, and took risks. And it is dressed in her uniform of Free France that she will participate in the march for civil rights, in Washington, alongside Martin Luther King in 1963.. “

Joséphine Baker, committed artist

The writer sees in her the symbol ” of a France that is not racist ” and “ a tribute to French universalism “:” his entry into the Pantheon is a very strong event to show the example of France’s welcome. With this decision, President Macron sends this message to the world: even if there is unfortunately also racism in France, our country remains an example of welcome and a gentler land for men and women to live in. “.

Joséphine Baker will be the first black woman to rest in the secular French necropolis of the Panthéon, where until now only five women among the 80 “great men” already pantheonized: scientists Sophie Berthelot and Marie Curie, resistance fighters Germaine Tillion and Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, and Simone Veil, the last to join, in 2018.

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