She is still a symbol of freedom!
Josephine Baker will become the first Black woman entertainer to be buried at the historic Panthéon monument in France, Blavity reports.
Baker was born in Missouri in 1906, rising to international fame as a singer, activist, and symbol of freedom. She moved to France in 1925, looking to escape the pervasive racism in the U.S., eventually gaining dual citizenship after marrying industrialist Jean Lion in 1937. She served in the French Resistance during World War II and later became a civil rights activist in the U.S., serving alongside Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
“You know, friends, that I do not lie to you when I tell you I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more,” she said in her speech at the march. “But I cold not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, ‘cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world.”
Baker became a megastar in France, performing at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees and the Folies Bergere in Paris. The global superstar passed away in 1975 and was buried in Monaco. Recently, her family launched a petition to request the iconic singer be laid to rest at the historic Panthéon monument in Paris, one of the highest honors a citizen of France can receive and a place where many notable historical figures have been buried.
“She was an artist, the first Black international star, a muse of the cubists, a resistance fighter during the second world war in the French army, active alongside Martin Luther King in the civil rights fight,” a statement via the petition states.
The petition garnered 38,000 signatures, and now French President Emmanuel Macron is honoring the late singer by reinterring her remains at the Parisian Panthéon. Baker will now become the first Black woman to be laid to rest at the historical site, the fifth woman in its history, and the first entertainer buried there. Macron approved the request after meeting one of Baker’s sons this past July.
Pascal Bruckner, a leader of the campaign group called Baker, “a symbol of a France that is not racist, contrary to what some media groups say, as well as a true anti-fascist.”
Jennifer Guesdon, another campaign member, said the president’s approval “was a great joy.”
Baker’s remains will be reinterred on November 30th.
Rest in power, Ms. Baker. Because of you, we can!
Photo Courtesy of AP