Josephine Baker, the singer who mesmerized a French audience while performing at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees and at the Folies Bergere in Paris, is now receiving one of the highest honors in France. According to the Associated Press, French President Emmanuel Macron is honoring the legendary Missouri native on Nov. 30 by reinterring her remains at the Panthéon monument in Paris — a place where prominent historical figures have been buried.
Baker, the renowned entertainer and World War II hero was buried in Monaco in 1975. She'll now become the first Black woman to be laid to rest at the Parisian monument. The legendary musician will be the fifth woman to be receive a Panthéon burial. She will also be the first entertainer buried at the monument, which holds the remains of 72 men.
The Baker family, which requested the singer receive the Panthéon honor, launched a petition that gathered 38,000 signatures, The Guardian reported.
“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,” the petition states.
Pascal Bruckner, a member of the campaign group, said Baker “is a symbol of a France that is not racist, contrary to what some media groups say, as well as a true anti-fascist.”
Macron approved the plan to recognize the artist after meeting one of Baker’s sons on July 21.
“When the president said yes, it was a great joy,” said Jennifer Guesdon, another member of the campaign.
Baker moved to France in 1925, seeking to escape racism in the U.S. She soon became a megastar in the country and also gained citizenship after marrying industrialist Jean Lion in 1937.
After serving with the French Resistance during World War II, Baker later became a civil rights activist in her home country. The artist took part in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.