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LIVE: Josephine Baker enters France's Pantheon, the first Black woman to do so

By RFI
Europe ©  Getty Images / Ray Fisher
NOV 30, 2021 LISTEN
© Getty Images / Ray Fisher

French-American dancer, singer, actress and rights activist Josephine Baker is the first black woman to enter France's Pantheon mausoleum on Tuesday, nearly half a century after her death.

Baker will be the sixth woman to be honoured in the secular temple to the "great men" of the French Republic, which sits on a hill in Paris's Left Bank.

The "pantheonisation" of the world's first black female superstar caps years of campaigning by Baker's family and admirers to give her the rare posthumous honour.

President Emmanuel Macron granted the request in August to recognise the fact that Baker's "whole life was dedicated to the twin quest for liberty and justice," his office said last week.

Baker is buried in Monaco, where her body will remain.

During Tuesday's ceremony a coffin containing handfuls of earth from four places where she lived -- the US city of St. Louis where she was born; Paris; the Chateau des Milandes where she lived in southwest France; and Monaco -- will be placed in the tomb reserved for her in the Pantheon's crypt.

The coffin will be carried into the building by members of the French air force, commemorating her role in the French Resistance during World War II.

In the ceremony beginning at 1630 GMT - 1730 Paris Time, Macron will deliver a speech and some of Baker's relatives will read short texts written by the trailblazing performer.

Baker's name will also soon be added to the name of the Gaite metro station next to the Bobino theatre in southern Paris, where she last appeared on stage a few days before her death in 1975.

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