Josephine Baker becomes first black woman to be granted a tomb at the Pantheon ...

Josephine Baker becomes first black woman to be granted a tomb at the Pantheon ...
Josephine Baker becomes first black woman to be granted a tomb at the Pantheon ...

Josephine Baker, a Missouri born-exotic dancer, activist, and French Resistance member, has become the first black woman to be granted a tomb in the Pantheon in Paris.

Baker, who died in 1975, was awarded one of France's highest honors on Tuesday where her coffin was taken into the monument joining 80 other highly-regarded French figures, with only five of them being women including scientist Marie Curie and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil. 

A ceremony with 2,000 guests, with nine of her children in attendance, was held for Baker on the Paris streets outside of the Pantheon complete with her old recordings, an orchestra, and a children's choir singing one of her classic songs.

Her decorated coffin - draped in the country's tri-colored flag and filled with soils from the US, Monaco, and France - was carried into the monument by members of the French Air Force.

Baker remains buried in Monaco, but the casket has been filled with earth from locations that had significant meaning to the late singer.  

Another military officer carried her decorated awards which included the World War II Resistance medal and the Knight of the Legion of Honor.

Her body remains buried in Monaco, however, at the request of Baker's family. 

Members of the French Air Force carry a cenotaph containing soils from the US, France, and Monaco where Josephine Baker lived to the Pantheon in Paris

Members of the French Air Force carry a cenotaph containing soils from the US, France, and Monaco where Josephine Baker lived to the Pantheon in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the ceremony to honor Baker

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the ceremony to honor Baker

US-born Josephine Baker was highly regarded in France and was remembered as an exotic dancer, civil rights activist, and a French Resistance member during World War II

US-born Josephine Baker was highly regarded in France and was remembered as an exotic dancer, civil rights activist, and a French Resistance member during World War II

French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute at the ceremony to 'a war hero, fighter, dancer, singer; a black woman defending Black people but first of all, a woman defending humankind. American and French. Josephine Baker fought so many battles with lightness, freedom, joy.' 

'Josephine Baker, you are entering into the Pantheon because, (despite being) born American, there is no greater French (woman) than you,' Macron said. 

Baker was only praised for her world-renowned artistic career but also for her active role in the French Resistance during World War II, her actions as a civil rights activist and her humanist values, which she displayed through the adoption of her 12 children from all over the world. Nine of them attended Tuesday’s ceremony among the 2,000 guests.   

'Mum would have been very happy,' Akio Bouillon, Baker’s son, said after the ceremony. 

'Mum would not have accepted to enter into the Pantheon if that was not as the symbol of all the forgotten people of history, the minorities.'

Baker's coffin was carried through the Paris streets as her old recordings played complete with an orchestra and a children's choir singing one of her songs

Baker's coffin was carried through the Paris streets as her old recordings played complete with an orchestra and a children's choir singing one of her songs

Six carries from the Air Force carry Baker's cenotaph which is decorated with the French tri-color flag

Six carries from the Air Force carry Baker's cenotaph which is decorated with the French tri-color flag

Baker joins 80 other highly regarded French figures, including only five other women, and holds the honor of being the first Black woman to hold a place at the Pantheon

Baker joins 80 other highly regarded French figures, including only five other women, and holds the honor of being the first Black woman to hold a place at the Pantheon

Bouillon added that what moved him the most were the people who gathered along the street in front of the Pantheon to watch.

'They were her public, people who really loved her,' he said.  

The tribute ceremony started with Baker’s song Me revoilà Paris (Paris, I’m Back). The French army choir sang the French Resistance song, prompting strong applause from the public. 

Her signature song J’ai deux amours (Two Loves) was then played by an orchestra accompanying Baker’s voice on the Pantheon plaza.

During a light show displayed on the monument, Baker could be heard saying 'I think I am a person who has been adopted by France. It especially developed my humanist values, and that’s the most important thing in my life.'

The homage included Martin Luther King’s famed 'I have a dream' speech. Baker was the only woman to speak before him at the 1963 March on Washington where he made the iconic remarks.  

Baker strikes a pose during her Ziegfeld Follies performance of The Conga at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York in 1936

Baker strikes a pose during her Ziegfeld Follies performance of The Conga at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York in 1936

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