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.
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.
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.
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