Josephine Baker to be Honored with Panthéon Burial

PARIS — American-born Black dancer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker, who became one of France’s biggest music hall stars of the early 20th century, will be buried in the Panthéon, France’s famous tomb of heroes. President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday.

This honor goes to Mrs Baker, who became a French citizen in 1937 and He died in Paris in 1975. – the first Black woman to be buried there, and one of the very few foreign-born. The Panthéon houses the remains of some of France’s most respected, including Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

The decision to transfer the body of Miss Baker, who was buried in Monaco, came some time later. petition calling for action initiated by author Laurent Kupferman, caught the attention of Mr. Macron. The petition has garnered nearly 40,000 signatures over the past two years.

Mr Kupferman suggested that Mr Macron approved of the reburial because “probably Josephine Baker embodies the Republic of Possibilities.”

“How can a woman from a discriminated and very poor background reach her destiny and become a world star?” Mr. Kupferman said. “This was possible in France at a time when it wasn’t in the United States.”

Burial in the Panthéon can only be approved by a president, and Mrs. Baker’s reburial is highly symbolic. France shaken by heated culture wars through the social integration model and Gender and race The problems tore the country apart around new political front lines.

news first newspaper Le Parisien. His body will be buried on 30 November.

In 1906 St. Baker, born Freda Josephine McDonald, began her career as a dancer in New York City in the early 1920s and traveled to France, where she soon became a sensation.

He said he was motivated to move abroad because of the discrimination he faced in the United States. “I couldn’t stand America and was one of the first black Americans to move to Paris,” he said. Guard Newspaper of 1974.

Along with other Black American artists, including writers Richard Wright and James Baldwin, Ms. Baker said she found a freedom in France that she felt was denied in the United States.

In Paris, Mrs. Baker quickly rose to fame and became a fixture at the Les Folies Bergères, a famous music hall that dominates the cabarets of France with her sense of humor, wild dance and iconic songs.J’ai Deux Amours” or “I Have Two Loves”.

But some of his artistic career was also built on stereotypical and erotic dances, such as pseudo-dances. banana dance. The dances were once brimming with racial tropes associated with Black women and their bodies in colonial France, later fascinated by Black and African arts, leading some activists at the time to denounce her for fueling these cartoons.

But Pap Ndiaye, a historian specializing in Black studies, said in 2019: French Culture radio Mrs. Baker especially used clichés in her actions, mocking them as well as exaggerating them.

“This French colonial fantasy world will catch up and play with it, obviously with lots of nods and distances, because Josephine Baker is not deceived,” said Mr. Ndiaye.

Ms. Baker later became a passionate civil rights activist in the United States. He wrote about racial equality, refused to perform in segregated venues, and in 1963, He joined Martin Luther King Jr. On stage to speak during the March in Washington.

In recent years, French authorities have responded increased calls for more women in the Panthéon, where the vast majority of those buried are men. in 2014 Germaine Tillion and Geneviève de Gaulle-AnthoniozHe who fought in France’s Resistance Against the Nazis was awarded this honor and Simone VeilA health minister who advocated France’s legalization of abortion was buried there in 2018.

Ms. Baker’s funeral at the Panthéon could prove politically beneficial for Mr. Macron, as it was the first burial to be given to a Black woman by nature. Racial discrimination debates flare up in France The 2022 presidential election is less than a year away. But Sunday’s announcement could fuel hostility over the Macron government’s model of France’s integration. it’s been hot lately.

Supporters of moving Ms. Baker’s remains to the Panthéon have said that France’s so-called universalist model – supposedly secular, color-blind and equal-opportunity – allows her to perform in France while she can’t in the United States. But This model has also come under serious criticism. Recently, some critics, especially among younger minorities, have accused it of masking pervasive racism and embodying unfulfilled ideals.

The reburial will also give France a chance to celebrate Ms. Baker’s life outside of the arts. He served as an ambulance driver and intelligence agent during World War II and earned medals of honor. And in the 1950s, Mrs. Baker adopted a dozen orphans of various nationalities, races, and religions with whom she lived in a castle in southwestern France.

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