On the 30th of November 2021, Josephine Baker became the sixth ever woman, the third black person and the first black woman, to enter the Panthéon Mausoleum 🏛of Paris, France.
The Gaité metro station on line 13 will be renamed as Josephine Baker. The station is the closest one to the Bobino theatre, where Baker, then 69 years old, performed her last show, narrating the events of her life. 2 days later she died.
46 years later, she will be enshrined in the Pantheon, through the earth she grew, loved, lived and died on – from Saint Louis, Paris, Milandes and Monaco.
Here’s something I wrote about her a few years ago.
Puteaux, the western suburb of Paris awarded the “Médaille de la ville” or City-Medal to Joséphine Baker, this June. It was awarded posthumously for the role she played in the French Resistance during World War II.
I found out about it in the cultural magazine of the community-Infoscope- only two days before Bastille Day i.e. 14th July.
I decided to write this piece for the 14th of July celebrations, as a dedication to France and Francophiles who come from all over the world, are in love with France and all things French or/and call France her home and/or fought for her when needed.
(Original Caption) 1/23/28-Paris, France: Photo shows Josephine Baker, the dark star of the Follies Bergere, as directrice of her own bar, or cabaret. She seems to be “all business.” (Original Caption ends) Bettman -Getty Images
with her pet cheetah, Chiquita, early 1930s. Photo by Trascendental Graphics/Getty Images
But this is really about Joséphine Baker. The woman, the fighter, the dancer who loved France and France, loved her right back.
A bronze statue of Jo Baker in Dordogne source: tripadvisor.fr
Missouri born American, Freda Josephine MacDonald became the cult figure we know today, thanks to her shows and performances in the Folies Bergère cabaret. You can find out a lot more about her on her Wikipedia page here.
The Glamorous “Black Pearl”
Nicknamed Black pearl,Creole Goddess, Jazz Cleopatra, this woman stole hearts and shows in Paris and the world over with her scintillating dance performances. But this journey, as with most artists, didn’t start easy.
From a street corner dancer, to performing in vaudeville shows doing black face comedies in Saint Louis, to eventually getting on to more visible stages of New York, to finally making her way to Paris in the hit spectacle La revue Nègre– Joséphine made her way steadily into the hearts of of the French.
Paul Colin Poster for La Revue Nègre
She was a musical star, gem of a dancer and worked in successful movies. Infact, she was the first black woman to star in Zouzou – a major motion picture. She was a muse to authors, painters, designers and sculptors, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, and Christian Dior.
Hemingway called her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.”
What I am touched by most are her causes. The ones she fought for.
Fighting Racism one child at a time: Joséphine adopted 12 children of different nationalities, to prove her dream that irrespective of color and origin the children could be real siblings. She called her family the Rainbow Tribe.
As a member of the French Resistance: She received the “Croix de Guerre”and the “Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur” from General Charles de Gaulle for her contribution to France in WWII. She was a spy working for France during the war. She worked out of Chateau des Milandes in Dordogne, through sickness and loneliness. At one point she helped raise over 10 million Francs for the organisation.
Civil Rights Movement: She stood along with Martin Luther King for putting an end to racial discrimination against African-Americans.
The magazine from Puteaux interviewed her son, Akio about his mother.
And with this I wish you a wonderful Bastille day. Charge ahead, follow your dreams, celebrate your independence and love life a little more than you did yesterday.