Famed WWII Hero Josephine Baker to Become First Black Woman to Receive Burial Honor in Paris Pantheon

Josephine Baker, the famed French-American entertainer who fought with the French Resistance during World War II, will become the first Black woman to be inducted in the Pantheon mausoleum in Paris.

Daily newspaper Le Parisien reported on Aug. 22 that French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to organize an induction ceremony for Baker on Nov. 30, following a July 21 meeting with a group of advocates for Baker.

The group included one of Baker’s sons, Brian Bouillon, and essayist Laurent Kupferman, who launched an online petition for the induction at the Pantheon, gaining nearly 38,000 signatures.

Government Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher confirmed the news on Twitter, thanking Macron and describing Baker as an “artist and fierce activist” and “a great lady in love with France.”

To be inducted at the monument in the French capital is the country’s highest honor and it is reserved for national heroes.

Baker “should not be inducted only because she was a woman or because she was Black. She should be inducted because of the acts of courage she performed for the country,” Kupferman told media company France 24.

Baker, who also becomes the first entertainer to receive the honor, joined the French Resistance against Nazi Germany and used her celebrity status to collect information from German officials at parties, carry hidden messages, and to travel.

Baker was also a civil rights activist who joined Martin Luther King Jr. in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

Baker will join the five other women out of 80 people honored in the Pantheon, including French Holocaust survivor and politician Simone Veil and Polish-French scientist Marie Curie.

Baker is currently buried in Monaco.

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