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Josephine Baker

Source: Gaston Paris / Getty

Legendary entertainer Josephine Baker is being honored with a burial in Paris, France’s Panthéon monument, one of the country’s highest honors.

The American-born performer was initially buried in Monaco, after her passing in 1975, dressed in her French military uniform as a nod to her role as a spy during the French Resistance amidst World War II.

The placement of her remains in the Panthéon makes Baker the sixth woman out of 80 other French national heroes like scientist Marie Curie, philosopher Voltaire and writer Victor Hugo who have been granted the honor. Notably, Baker will also be the Pantheon’s first Black woman and first entertainer.

French President Emmanuel Macron shared the announcement via Twitter on Monday, August 23, and noted that Baker “carried the motto of the French Republic high.”

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1906, Baker moved to France in 1925 and reached stardom as a performer there in the 1930s. She became widely known for her banana skirts and risqué performances. The performer worked hard to subvert the stereotypes Black women faced in America and across Europe during that time through her boundary-breaking dance.

By 1937, she’d become a French citizen.

In light of the news regarding her Panthéon burial, the Élysée Palace described Baker as a “world-renowned music hall artist, committed to the Resistance, [and a] tireless anti-racist activist.”

“She was involved in all the fights that bring together citizens of good will, in France and around the world,” the institution noted.

Baker’s remains will officially be laid to rest in the Panthéon on November 30.

Read more about the entertainer’s impact here.

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