Photos: Josephine Baker becomes the first Black woman to be inducted into France’s Pantheon

Projections of photographs depicting Josephine Baker
Projections of photographs depicting Josephine Baker (1906-75), the American-born French dancer and singer who fought in the French Resistance and later battled racism, during a ceremony for her induction into the Pantheon in Paris.
(Thibault Camus / Pool Photo)
Share

PARIS — France is inducting U.S.-born entertainer, anti-Nazi spy and civil rights activist Josephine Baker into the Pantheon, the first Black woman to receive the nation’s highest honor.

Baker’s voice resonated Tuesday through the streets of Paris’ Left Bank as recordings from her extraordinary career kicked off an elaborate ceremony at the domed Pantheon monument. Baker was joining other French luminaries honored at the site, including philosopher Voltaire, scientist Marie Curie and writer Victor Hugo.

The cenotaph of Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
The cenotaph of Josephine Baker, covered by the French flag and the military medals she was awarded as part of the French Resistance.
(Julien de Rosa / AFP )

Military officers carried her cenotaph along a red carpet that stretched for four blocks of cobblestoned streets from the Luxembourg Garden to the Pantheon. Baker’s military medals lay atop the cenotaph, which was draped in the French tricolor flag and contained soils from her birthplace in Missouri, from France, and from her final resting place in Monaco. Her body will stay in Monaco at the request of her family.

Advertisement

French President Emmanuel Macron made the decision in August to honor the “exceptional figure” who “embodies the French spirit.” Baker is also the first American-born citizen and the first performer to be immortalized into the Pantheon.

The cenotaph of Josephine Baker enters the French Pantheon.
(Thomas Coex / Pool Photo)
Children perform during a ceremony dedicated to Josephine Baker.
(Thomas Coex / Pool Photo)
French soldiers carry a cenotaph during a ceremony dedicated to Josephine Baker
French soldiers carry Baker’s cenotaph during the ceremony.
(Sarah Meyssonnier / Pool Photo)
French soldiers carry a cenotaph during a ceremony dedicated to Josephine Baker
French soldiers enter the Pantheon.
(Sarah Meyssonnier / Pool Photo)
Members of the public attend the ceremony
Members of the public attend the ceremony.
(Julien de Rosa / AFP )
Advertisement

French President Emmanuel Macron at the ceremony.
(Sarah Meyssonnier / Pool Photo)
French actors Catherine Frot and Francois Cluzet attend the ceremony.
(Sarah Meyssonnier / Pool Photo)
French soldiers carry Josephine Baker's cenotaph.
(Sarah Meyssonnier / Pool Photo)
Images of Josephine Baker and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. are displayed during the ceremony.
(Thibault Camus / Pool Photo)
Brian Bouillon-Baker, one of Josephine Baker's adopted sons, attends the ceremony.
(Sarah Meyssonnier / Pool Photo)
A sound and light show outside the Pantheon.
(Thierry Chesnot / Getty Images)