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Live: Josephine Baker becomes first Black woman to enter France’s Panthéon

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The American-born dancer, singer, actress and civil rights activist Josephine Baker becomes the first Black woman to enter France’s Panthéon mausoleum of revered historical figures on Tuesday, nearly half a century after her death. A coffin containing handfuls of earth from four places she lived will be carried into the building by French soldiers, commemorating her role in the French Resistance during World War II. Follow the ceremony live on FRANCE 24 by clicking on the video player above.

Baker is just the sixth woman to be honoured in the secular temple to the “great men” – and, belatedly, great women – of the French Republic, which sits on a hill in Paris’s Left Bank.

She is also the first entertainer to be immortalised alongside the likes of Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Marie Curie.

The “pantheonisation” of the world’s first Black female superstar caps years of campaigning by Baker’s family and admirers to give her the rare posthumous honour.

President Emmanuel Macron granted the request in August to recognise the fact that Baker’s “whole life was dedicated to the twin quest for liberty and justice”, his office said last week.

The extraordinary life of Josephine Baker
The extraordinary life of Josephine Baker © Creative Department – France Médias Monde

Baker is buried in Monaco, where her body will remain.

During Tuesday’s ceremony a coffin containing handfuls of earth from four places where she lived – the US city of St. Louis where she was born; Paris, her “second love”; the Château de Milandes where she lived in southwest France; and Monaco – will be placed in the tomb reserved for her in the Panthéon’s crypt.

The coffin will be carried into the building by members of the French air force, commemorating her role in the French Resistance during World War II.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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