Artist, activist and Resistance hero Josephine Baker enters France's Pantheon

French-American dancer, singer, actress and rights activist Josephine Baker entered France's Pantheon mausoleum on Tuesday, the 30th of November, nearly half a century after her death and the first black woman to do so.

The domed monument in the heart of Paris, modelled on the one in Rome, holds the remains of legendary figures in France's history from the worlds of politics, culture and science.

Seventy men, including the philosophers Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, lie next to literary luminaries such as Alexandre Dumas, Emile Zola and Victor Hugo.

Only five women before Baker have been allowed through its grand portals, which are crowned with an inscription proclaiming: “To great men from a grateful nation.”

More on Josephine Baker in the Spotlight on France podcast:

Baker's adopted country bestowed the honour 46 years after her death. Not only was she a mould-breaking entertainer, she was also a French Resistance hero, civil rights activist and a diversity pioneer who created her own multiracial family.

Born Freda Josephine McDonald into extreme poverty in Missouri in 1906, Baker left school at the age of 13.

After two failed marriages – she took the name Baker from her second husband – she managed to land herself a place in one of the first all-black musicals on Broadway in 1921.

March on Washington

Like many Black American artists at the time, Baker moved to France to escape racist discrimination back home. But she never stopped campaigning for civil rights.

She was the only woman to address the March in Washington in 1963, taking the microphone after Martin Luther King had given his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

In a personal bid to prove there is “only one race”, Baker adopted 12 children from across the world to live with her in her French chateau, which she later tried to turn into a “Global Village”.

“We all have the same heart, the same blood and the same need for love,” she declared.

Banana skirt

Plucked from the chorus line of “La Revue Nègre” musical – an attempt to bring “authentic” Black American culture to Europe – she became its star and caused a sensation.

It was the first time most Parisians had ever heard jazz or seen it performed.

The writer Ernest Hemingway, who was living in the French capital at the time, said Baker was “the most sensational woman anyone had seen”.

The artist Pablo Picasso marvelled at her “smile to end all smiles”.

When the show moved to the Folies-Bergere, Baker danced the Charleston in 1927 wearing nothing but a string of pearls and a skirt made of 16 rubber bananas.

France, which had many Black African colonies, was dumbstruck by her performance, which some people at the time saw as a parody of white male sexual fantasies.

“With racist fantasies on the one hand and colonialist fantasies on the other, it seems fair to say that Baker's impact on Paris … had as much to do with her colour as her talent,” American literary critic Phyllis Rose wrote.

Ilana Navaro, who made a documentary about Baker in 2018, said she “transformed bananas, the ultimate racist symbols, into phallic trophies”.

WWII spy hero

After her marriage to the French industrialist Jean Lion in 1937, she took French nationality – but the relationship did not last.

However, she helped him and his Jewish family escape the Nazis and reach the United States.

It was to be one of many wartime exploits in which Baker showed the same mettle that led her to refuse to perform before segregated audiences in the United States, an unpopular move at the time.

She became a spy for France's wartime leader-in-exile General Charles de Gaulle, and used her people skills and contacts to obtain information on the plans of Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

She was an informant, courier and lover of de Gaulle's counter-intelligence chief in Paris.

She also sent reports to London written in invisible ink in her sheet music, work for which she would later be decorated with the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d'honneur.

“France made me who I am,” she later said. “Parisians gave me everything … I am prepared to give them my life.”

'Rainbow tribe'

After several miscarriages, she and her fourth husband, orchestra director Jo Bouillon, adopted 12 children of different ethnic backgrounds.

She installed what she called her “Rainbow Tribe” in the chateau des Milandes in the Dordogne in southwestern France.

Baker later transformed her multiracial utopia into a theme park dedicated to world peace. But her high ideals and grand ambitions did not pay the bills and she ran into debt.

Ruined, she returned to the stage in a vain bid to save her estate.

Her fellow American, Princess Grace of Monaco, came to her aid and helped her settle on the French Riviera in 1969.

But Baker could not stop performing, and she was to have one last hurrah, with a final smash-hit cabaret show in Paris retracing her remarkable career.

She died on 12 April, 1975, aged 68, from a brain haemorrhage as she read reviews of a star-studded gala – attended by Mick Jagger and Sophia Loren – to celebrate her half-century on the stage.

(with AFP)

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Researcher finds first mineral evidence confirming water flowed on Mars longer than previously thought

While rovers trundle on the surface in search of ancient microbial life, the machines hovering above Mars have identified a crucial development in the evolution of the Red Planet. The ... Read more »

Zero tolerance towards manipulation, says Twitter after Rahul Gandhi shoots letter

In response to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s letter to Twitter CEO Parag Agarwal to highlight the company’s “unwitting complicity in curbing free and fair speech”, the microblogging website said that ... Read more »

Father of two, 31, has open-heart surgery to fit pump which will only keep him alive another five years after he was REFUSED a transplant because he's not vaccinated against COVID

DJ Ferguson, a 31-year-old father of two, has been in hospital since late November with a hereditary heart conditionThe condition means that causes his lungs and heart fill with blood and fluid, and he is in need of a heart transplantHis doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have said that he is ineligible for the transplant because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19Doctors routinely reject patients for the coveted life-saving transplants if they have conditions such as addictions that will prevent their recoveryOn Wednesday night Ferguson's mother, father and girlfriend told Tucker Carlson that they were 'devastated' that he has been rejectedOn Tuesday he had open heart surgery to insert a mechanical heart pump, which will prolong his life by five years but is not a long-term substitute Read more »

Ex-VP Ansari Joins Jamaat-e-Islami Backed Event in US, Says 'Concerned' Over Human Rights Situation In India

© Provided by News18 Ex-VP Ansari Joins Jamaat-e-Islami Backed Event in US, Says ‘Concerned’ Over Human Rights Situation In India Former vice-president Hamid Ansari on Wednesday participated in an event, ... Read more »

UP Elections: Samajwadi Party MP Azam Khan Files Nomination From Jail, Son Azam to Contest from Suar

© Provided by News18 UP Elections: Samajwadi Party MP Azam Khan Files Nomination From Jail, Son Azam to Contest from Suar Mohammad Azam Khan, the Samajwadi Party MP from Rampur, ... Read more »

Ground Report: Big Debate in Kalyan Singh's Turf—Why Didn't Akhilesh Come to Pay Last Respects?

Why did Akhilesh Yadav not turn up to pay his last respects to the late Kalyan Singh after he passed away in 2021? In the backyard of Babuji—as the deceased ... Read more »

Tired of the Sun Playing Peek-a-Boo This Jan? Here's Why Delhi's Bone-Chilling Winter Refuses to End

© Provided by News18 Tired of the Sun Playing Peek-a-Boo This Jan? Here’s Why Delhi’s Bone-Chilling Winter Refuses to End Every year, Delhi brings out its woolens and quilts in ... Read more »

Man shot dead in broad daylight in Noida's Dadri area; probe launched

In a shocking murder case, a man who was a resident of Palla village in Greater Noida was shot dead in broad daylight by some unidentified miscreants on Wednesday. The ... Read more »

Polis tahan 6 lelaki, rampas ganja lebih RM600,000

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Ketua Polis Perlis, Surina Saad, berkata pihaknya percaya dadah dirampas itu diperoleh dari Thailand di mana sindiket menjadikan Perlis sebagai transit sebelum diedarkan ke ... Read more »

Harrowing final moments before woman, 53, was viciously stabbed 14 times by her partner on New Year's Eve - as it's revealed he drank beers, stole her bank cards and fled in her BMW afterwards

Jury has took just over an hour to convict a man of girlfriend's 'ferocious' murderPetero Baleinapuka, 58, denied stabbing his recent partner Angela O'Donnell, 53Attack left Ms O'Donnell with 14 stab wounds in Woonona on December 31, 2019 Judge in discussing his sentencing said Baleinapuka is a 'very dangerous man' Read more »

SA records 4,514 new COVID cases, 94 fatalities

© AFP. FILE: A nurse from Lancet Nectare hospital performs a COVID-19 coronavirus test in Richmond, Johannesburg, on 18 December 2020. JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s daily COVID-19 positivity rate is ... Read more »

Robredo seeks PH return to ICC if elected president

VICE President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo will propose the country’s return to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if she is elected president. In an interview with Boy Abunda that premiered ... Read more »

First Nations Educators Conference: Feb 2 & 3 has an amazing list of Guest Speakers. Deadline Extended.

(ANNews) – Registration is open for this year’s virtual First Nations Educators’ Conference, which will be held Feb. 2 and 3, and is a joint production from Bigstone Education Authority ... Read more »

IMF Urges El Salvador to Drop Bitcoin as Currency, Citing Financial Stability Risks

BeInCrypto – The International Monetary Fund is urging El Salvador to stop using Bitcoin as legal tender citing financial stability risks. This story was seen first on BeInCrypto Join our ... Read more »

TV18 Broadcast hits upper circuit in a weak market; here's why

New Delhi: Shares of TV18 Broadcast hit the upper circuit on Thursday following media reports that Uday Shankar and James Murdoch eye to pick up a significant stake in Viacom18. ... Read more »

UIF head Maruping to return to work after more than a year on suspension

© @UIFBenefits/Twitter FILE: Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) commissioner Teboho Maruping. JOHANNESBURG – Eyewitness News can reveal that Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Commissioner Teboho Maruping will be returning to work after ... Read more »

Top baker spills his secret recipe for the PERFECT chocolate mudcake: 'This is the best looking dessert I've seen'

Chef shares how to make the most indulgent home-made chocolate mud cakeMorgan Hipworth creates the dessert using pantry staples and a simple method Morgan's recipe has received over one million views and hundreds of comments 'This is by far the best looking mud cakes I've seen, well done,' a foodie wrote Read more »

Video: Netflix releases trailer for bizarre Korean rom-com Love and Leashes about a submissive office worker who starts an S&M relationship with his glamorous boss: 'Do you want me to step on you?'

Read more »

Gov. Kathy Hochul warns embattled Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg she's prepared to use her powers to force him to reverse his soft-on-crime policies as subway attacks and violent crime soars in NYC

Hochul - who is running for a full term after replacing sex pest ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2021 - has said she'll be meeting Bragg for the first time Friday 'I know full well the powers that the governor has — I'll be having a conversation very shortly to convey,' she said. Hochul has stopped short of demanding Bragg's removal from office, but added that she will 'be monitoring the situation very closely'The pair is set to meet at Governor Hochul's Manhattan offices, which are located in Midtown  Read more »

Raveena Tandon opens up on adopting 'quietly' as she wishes her daughter Chaya on her wedding anniversary

© Provided by Pinkvilla Raveena Tandon is a doting mum to four children – two adopted and two biological. For the unversed, the actress adopted daughters Pooja and Chaya when ... Read more »

Ankita Lokhande opens up on life after marriage with Vicky Jain; reveals she's busier on the professional front - EXCLUSIVE

© Provided by BollywoodLife.com Ankita Lokhande has completed a month of marriage. The Pavitra Rishta actress is waiting for the release of Pavitra Rishta 2.0 where she comes back as ... Read more »

Salah bawa Mesir ke suku akhir Piala Negara-Negara Afrika

© Provided by Sinar Harian MOHAMED Salah menjadi wira Mesir apabila menyempurnakan penalti kemenangan untuk membantu The Pharaohs melangkah ke pusingan suku akhir Piala Negara-Negara Afrika selepas menewaskan Ivory Coast ... Read more »

Djokovic punca kebangkitan Medvedev

© Provided by Sinar Harian PEMAIN tenis nombor dua dunia, Daniil Medvedev mendedahkan punca dia melengkapkan kebangkitan hebat menentang Felix Auger-Aliassime dalam saingan Terbuka Australia kerana terinspirasi dengan semangat yang ... Read more »

Newcastle mampu kekal bersaing di EPL

© Provided by Sinar Harian PENGKRITIK bola sepak England, Rio Ferdinand yakin bahawa Newcastle United akan terus kekal bersaing di Liga Perdana Inggeris (EPL) musim depan selepas berjaya merekrut beberapa ... Read more »

Mouni Roy-Suraj Nambiar Wedding: Bride to be gets beau's initial written on hand during mehendi ceremony

Mouni Roy has all the reasons on cloud nine today. After all, she is tying the knot with Suraj Nambiar in a grand wedding in Goa after dating each other ... Read more »

Anushka Sharma warns new parents Priyanka Chopra, Nick Jonas about sleepless nights

Anushka Sharma shared an advice for Priyanka and Nick. Anushka Sharma has a great piece of advice for Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas. The couple recently announced that they have ... Read more »

Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai: AbhiRa fans crush over Harshad Chopda aka Abhimanyu's 'majnu' avatar after Akshara's love confession – view tweets

© Provided by BollywoodLife.com Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, episode 487, 27 January 2022: Harshad Chopda, Pranali Rathod and Karishma Sawant starrer TV show has seen an interesting lately. Abhi ... Read more »

Raiders' Nate Hobbs pleads guilty of Vegas traffic charge, not DUI

LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs pleaded guilty Wednesday to a reduced traffic charge stemming from his arrest early this month on suspicion of driving under the ... Read more »

GM sold 26 electric vehicles last quarter but projects it will overtake Tesla by 2025. Elon Musk said GM has 'room for improvement.'

© Provided by Business Insider Tesla CEO Elon Musk says GM appears “to have some room for improvement.” Picture Alliance/Getty Images GM is investing heavily into EVs and projects it ... Read more »

Thomas Tuchel must heed Lionel Messi transfer message as Chelsea eye £36m Eden Hazard heir

Thomas Tuchel is fast approaching a T-junction as Chelsea‘s January transfer window comes to a close and Lionel Messi’s voice is bellowing through Blues boss’ satnav telling him which way ... Read more »

Edinburgh Council's own safety audit warned Spaces for People barriers were not visible enough. Yet SNP continue to sneer at those who complain – John McLellan

© Edinburgh Council was warned about the need to improve visibility of black lane dividers used in the… For Conservative MSP Miles Briggs and Councillor Jason Rust to highlight the ... Read more »

Maruti Suzuki share price hits new 52-week high post Q3 results, may rally 20% more; buy, sell or hold?

© Provided by The Financial Express Maruti Suzuki stock has rallied 20% in the last one month Maruti Suzuki India share price gained over 1.5 per cent to hit a ... Read more »

Adani Wilmar IPO subscribed 12 percent on first day, retail portion booked 26 percent

© Swati Verma Adani Wilmar IPO subscribed 12 percent on first day, retail portion booked 26 percent The initial public offering (IPO) of Adani Wilmar, a joint venture between Adani ... Read more »

Union Budget 2022: Incentivise investments in healthcare sector, says survey

© Provided by Zee News New Delhi: A pre-budget expectations survey on Wednesday showed increasing demand for incentivising investments in healthcare sector. As per the Grant Thornton Bharat survey, nearly ... Read more »

Dolly Everett's mum says kids should be forced to get a LICENCE to use social media after her daughter committed suicide following relentless online bullying

The mother of 14-year-old cyber-bullying victim Dolly Everett appears at inquiry She suggested children be licensed in order to use social media platformsKate Everett and her husband started Dolly's Dream after their daughter's deathThe inquiry into online safety is hearing from a range of participants The parliamentary committee is due to table its report by February 15 this year Read more »

Apple Pays Cybersecurity Student $100,500 Bounty For Finding Mac Webcam Bug

Apple has awarded a cybersecurity student $100,500 (roughly Rs 75,54,000) in bounty rewards for finding a vulnerability in the webcams on Mac computers. The student, Ryan Pickren, spoke about the ... Read more »

‘Tallano gold bar' exists…in soap form

© Provided by Interaksyon The fabled Tallano gold bar exists, that is, in the form of a whitening soap. A Reddit user posted a photo of a soap in a ... Read more »

Will virus be 'over'? Most Americans think not: AP-NORC poll

© Provided by Associated Press FILE – Travelers pass a sign near a COVID-19 testing site in Terminal E at Logan Airport, on Dec. 21, 2021, in Boston. A new ... Read more »

At least 3 judges eyed as Biden mulls Supreme Court pick

© Provided by Associated Press FILE – Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing ... Read more »

Holocaust Memorial Day: Families discover fate of long lost Dutch children who perished at Sobibor

Relatives of four Dutch children killed by the Nazis have described their sadness after being told their identity tags were found in the ruins of a death camp. © Dr. ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic