Entertainer Josephine Baker joins elite in France’s Panthéon

Paris Letter: Dancer titillated audiences while working for the French Resistance

Performer Josephine Baker circa 1925: Baker became famous for singing J’ai Deux Amours, about her love for both the US and France. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Performer Josephine Baker circa 1925: Baker became famous for singing J’ai Deux Amours, about her love for both the US and France. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Josephine Baker was born to an unwed African-American maid in St Louis, Missouri in 1906. As a child, she stole to help her family. On Tuesday next she will join the ranks of Voltaire, Rousseau and Victor Hugo when she is inducted into the Panthéon. The words “To great men the country is grateful” are engraved on the pediment.

Baker will be the first American, the first performing artist and the first black woman to be “pantheonised”. Seventy-five men and only five women have previously been accorded that honour, including the Nobel laureate Marie Curie and the Holocaust survivor Simone Veil.

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