Josephine Baker, First Black Woman Awarded at Pantheon, France | WGN Radio 720

Paris (AP) — France honors Missouri-born cabaret dancer, French World War II spy, and civil rights activist Josephine Baker at the last resting place of France’s most respected celebrity. We are inviting to Pantheon, the first black woman to be a dancer.

On Tuesday, a casket carrying soil from the United States, France, and Monaco, where Baker marked it, will be placed inside the dome-shaped Pantheon monument overlooking the left bank of Paris. Her body stays in Monaco at the request of her family.

French President Emmanuel Macron has decided to enter the Pantheon in response to her petition for “Pantheonization”. In addition to celebrating an extraordinary figure in French history, the move aims to send a message against racism and celebrate the connection between the United States and France.

“She embodies women’s freedom above all else,” Laurent Kupferman, author of the petition for the move, told The Associated Press.

Baker was born in 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri. At the age of 19, she had already divorced twice, had a male-female relationship, began a performance career, and moved to France after a job opportunity.

“She arrived in France in 1925. She is a liberated woman, dying in a country where she doesn’t even speak a language,” Kupferman said.

She quickly succeeded on the stage of the Champs Elysees Theater. I wore a topless and famous banana belt there. Her show, which embodies the racist stereotypes of colonial African women, has caused both criticism and blessings.

“She was such a fantasy, not the black body of an American woman, but the body of an African woman,” Oferi Lashaw, a spokesman for the Champs Elysees Theater, told AP. “That’s why they asked Josephine to dance something like” tribe, “” barbarian, “or” African. ” ”

She became a French citizen after marrying the industrialist Jean Lion in 1937. Jean Lion is a Jewish man who later suffered from the anti-Semitic law of the co-operative Vichy administration.

In September 1939, when France and Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, Baker contacted the head of the French counterintelligence service. She started working as an informant, traveled, approached officials, and shared information hidden in the score.

“On the one hand, he was an artist in a music hall, and on the other hand, he lived a double life of the secret life of an intelligence agency that would later become completely illegal,” said researcher and historian Jello Letin. Told.

After France’s defeat in June 1940, she refused to play for the Nazis who occupied Paris and emigrated to southwestern France. She continued to work for the French Resistance, using her artistic performance as a cover for her espionage.

That year she brought some spies working specifically for the Allies to her troops, allowing them to travel to Spain and Portugal.

“No one shocks her being with her Impresario, make-up artist, technician … so she brings them in and is informed,” says Retan. I did. “She is at risk of the death penalty, or at least severe crackdowns on Vichy and Nazi residents.”

The following year, due to a serious illness, Baker left France for North Africa. There General Charles de Gaulle later arrived from London with the Free French Forces. Baker gathered information about de Gaulle, including spying on British and Americans. They didn’t trust him completely and didn’t share all the information.

She also raised money, including from personal money. It is estimated that she brought in the equivalent of 10 million euros ($ 11.2 million) to support the French resistance.

In 1944, Baker joined the French Liberation Army Air Force women’s group as a second lieutenant. The group’s logbook specifically mentions the 1944 offshore Corsica when Senegalese soldiers from the colonial forces fighting in the French Liberation Army rescued Baker from the sea. After her plane had to make an emergency landing, they brought “the ship to the shore, with big shoulders, Josephine Baker in front,” the logbook wrote.

Baker also held concerts for soldiers and civilians near the battlefield. After the Nazi defeat, she went to Germany to sing for former prisoners and exiles released from the camp.

“Baker’s involvement in politics was personal and atypical,” said Benetta Jules Rosette, a leading figure in Baker’s life and a professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego.

After the war, Baker was involved in anti-racist politics. She fought against the separation of the United States on a 1951 US tour, was targeted by the FBI, was labeled as a Communist, and was banished from her hometown for 10 years. The ban was lifted by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and before Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, she returned to being the only woman to speak at the March on Washington.

Returning to France, she adopted 12 children from all over the world and created a “rainbow tribe” that embodies her ideal of “universal fraternity.” She bought a castle and land in the southwestern town of Mirande, where she sought to build a city that embodied her values.

“My mother saw the success of the rainbow tribe, because when we had problems as a child, we had never criticized each other and risked mass punishment. I didn’t know who did it, “said Brian Bouillon Baker, one of Baker’s sons. AP. “I heard her tell some friends.” I’m crazy not knowing who’s causing the problem, but I’m happy and proud that the kids are united. “

Towards the end of her life, she encountered financial problems, was kicked out, and lost her fortune. She received support from Princess Grace of Monaco, who provided Baker with a place to live for her and her children.

She rebuilt her career, but in 1975, four days after the opening of her comeback tour victory, she fell into a coma and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was buried in Monaco.

Baker is widely recognized in France, but why some Macron critics chose an American-born person as the first black woman in Pantheon rather than a person who stood up against discrimination in France itself. Some people question it.

Built at the end of the 18th century, the Pantheon honors 72 men and 5 women, including Baker. There are two other black people in the mausoleum. Gaulle resistance Felix Ebouet and famous writer Alexandre Dumas.

“These are people who have committed themselves, especially to others,” Pantheon administrator David Medeck told AP. “It’s not just about excellence in the field of competence, it’s actually a matter of commitment, commitment to others.”

Josephine Baker, First Black Woman Awarded at Pantheon, France | WGN Radio 720

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