Former erotic dancer, jazz singer and French Resistance spy Josephine Baker a symbol of the “Roaring Twenties” was buried in the French Pantheon today. The African American became the first black woman to be buried in the French tomb of secular heroes, here Ms. Baker joined 75 men and five women, including the author Émile Zola, the scientist Marie Curie, and the resistance hero Jean Moulin.
The tricolour draped coffin was carried by members of the French Air Force and it contained soil from the US, France and Monaco, places that the singer dancer spy loved. Her body remains in Monaco at the family request.
Born in St Louis Missouri of African, European and Native American ancestry, she married at 13 and after a divorce she found work with a performance troupe which took her to New York and eventually Paris where she found worldwide fame for her erotic dancing and jazz singing. During World War II she became a spy for the French Resistance. A regular fixture at cocktail parties in occupied France attended by Nazi officers and French collaborators. She smuggled out secret information in her underwear which she passed to the Allies.
At the end of the war she became involved in the civil rights movement and was very active in highlighting the plights of African-Americans under segregation using her celebrity status. She appeared on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with Rev.Dr Martin Luther King on Aug 28 1963 as he spoke the words. “I have a dream.” She died in Monaco 12 April 1975.
At the Pantheon ceremony a few months away from a bitter presidential election and with a far right surge in the polls. Macron the French President declared . “France is Josephine.”
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