Bisexual goddess and anti-Nazi fighter Josephine Baker given one of France’s highest honours

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12/2/2021

French-American cabaret star and civil rights activist Josephine Baker has become the first Black woman to enter the Panthéon, nearly 50 years after her death. The bisexual icon is the sixth woman to be honoured in the mausoleum of revered historical figures in Paris, and one of only three Black people, with author Alexandre Dumas and colonial administrator Félix Éboué also laid to rest in the temple. The move to enter Baker into the Panthéon, considered one of France’s highest honours, was made after years of campaigning by her family. President Emmanuel Macron granted the request in August, stating that the entertainer was an “exceptional figure” who “embodies the French spirit”. Macron’s office said Baker was “a woman whose whole life was looking towards the quest of both freedom and justice”. The rare posthumous honour will see Baker join scientist Marie Curie, writer Victor Hugo, philosopher Voltaire and many others, however she will be the first performer in the Panthéon, and the first American-born citizen.

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