Famous French artist Joséphine Baker will be added to the Panthéon

The American-French dancer, singer, actress and resistance fighter Joséphine Baker is played at the Panthéon in Paris. That is the national mausoleum in which the most important famous non-military French are buried. The soldiers, including Napoleon, are located at the Hôtel des Invalides.

The President of France decides who gets a spot in this building completed in 1789 in the Latin Quarter in Paris. Other famous French people who have their last resting place include chemist Marie Curie, philosopher Voltaire and writers Victor Hugo and Émile Zola.

On November 30, during a ceremony organized by President Macron, Joséphine Baker becomes the first black woman and the first artist to be performed at the Panthéon. Baker is only the fifth woman in the Panthéon. Only resistance women Germaine Tillion and Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Nobel laureate Marie Curie and holocaust survivor and politician Simone Veil preceded her.

Street dancing

Joséphine Baker was born in 1906 in Saint Louis in a street poor family. From the age of 12, she was homeless and made money dancing on the street for passers-by. She eventually became an artist and moved to New York and to France in 1925 where she became one of France‘s highest paid artists.

The black dancer performed at the famous Folies Bergère theatre and Club des Champs-Elysées with very bold performances in which she was almost naked on stage. She was mostly just dressed in a ‘banana skirt‘. She was nicknamed black Venus and symbolized the wild 1920s.

Messages in her underwear

In 1937, her marriage to industrial Jean Lion gave her French nationality. She was in the Resistance during World War II. She used her star status, which allowed her to keep traveling, to smuggle encrypted messages hidden in her underwear to England and other countries.

After the war, she was committed to the rights of African-Americans. She refused to perform in segregated halls and walked with Martin Luther King in the Mars on Washington in 1963. After King’s murder, she was asked to take his place, but she refused because she thought her children were too young to lose their mother.


Joséphine Baker married five men throughout her life, but also maintained love relationships with women. Among others, French writer Colette and painter Frida Kahlo.

After her death in 1975, Baker was buried in Monaco, dressed in a French military uniform with the medals she had received for her role in the Resistance.