MeIn the midst of World War II, Josephine Baker took the stage on the edge of the vast Sahara Desert. Her background was the midnight sky with stars drawn on it.
A crowd of Allied soldiers stationed in North Africa gathered and fainted by a world-famous entertainer. Baker was overjoyed and sang one of her most famous songs.J’ai Deux amoursOr “I have two loves.” The first was the United States, where Baker was born and raised, and the second was the newly adopted Paris.
More than 75 years after this fateful performance, one of these two countries has chosen to bestow Baker with the highest honor. Emmanuel Macron has announced that Baker will be commemorating the Panthéon in Paris on November 30th. Burial in the Pantheon is a distinction reserved exclusively for France’s greatest national heroes, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie.
The last resting place of the hero
The Pantheon is inspired by ancient Greece.The name comes directly from Greek Bread Means “everything” Theos Means “gods” – means the last sacred resting place. Containment in the large basement is only allowed for idols who “formed the French national identity” and their burial requires presidential approval.
Baker will be the sixth woman, the first entertainer, and the first black woman to be honored at the Mausoleum in Paris. She will also be one of the few winners not born in France.
The commemorative ceremony is a petition led by Baker’s family and fans and has collected over 37,000 signatures over the past two years. Baker died in 1975 and was buried in Monaco, but the petition claims that Baker deserves to enter the Pantheon.
A statement by Elysee, the official residence of the French president, asserted that Baker was “a realization of the French spirit.” It quoted her tireless efforts for the French Resistance movement during World War II and her artistry and commitment to the fight against racism. The statement continued that Baker “deserves recognition of her hometown” for these reasons.
Singer, soldier, spy
Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906, Baker moved to Paris at the age of 19. After facing racism, racism and oppression in the United States, Baker saw France as a paradise of freedom and a new beginning.
She had great success in French cabarets and music halls and was rumored to have made more money in the Paris scene than any other artist by the early 1930s. When the war broke out in 1939, Baker did not hesitate to confront the Nazi tyranny. Immediately after the Germans invaded France, French anti-military intelligence director Jack Abtey asked if he would formally participate in the growing resistance. In response, Baker struck her clenched fist into her heart, famously saying, “I am ready to give my life to France, the captain.”
During the war, Baker served the French Resistance movement in every way she knew. In particular, she protected Belgian refugees and resistance fighters at her residence, Milan Castle. But soon, the Nazi occupier approached her home, suspecting she had a stockpile of weapons. Baker managed to attract police officers to leave the chateau without searching, but realized that the days in occupied France were being counted.
Her journey with the Resistance continued abroad in the guise of a European tour, accompanied by Abtey in the guise of her assistant. During the trip, Baker received numerous invitations to a gorgeous diplomatic party. She attended all the events and was listening to information that could help the Resistance. She gave all the information to the Free French Forces, fixed notes on her clothes, and wrote a message using invisible ink on the score.
Curiously, in October 1942 Baker was reported dead in Portugal. Newspaper headlines around the world mourned singers and entertainers suspected of succumbing to tuberculosis due to poverty. Even the American poet and playwright Langston Hughes wrote a heartfelt obituary for Baker. Chicago Defender..
However, Baker was seriously ill, and although in Morocco, he was still very alive. In early 1941, Baker traveled to North Africa and faced serious complications from an emergency hysterectomy.
She recovered at a private clinic in Casablanca from June 1941 to December 1942. During that time, he used the convalescent bed as a meeting place for members of the French Resistance movement. When Baker heard the news of her premature death, she reportedly answered, “I’m too busy to die.”
And I was busy. Baker played for the Allied forces stationed in North Africa when she wasn’t recruiting members of the Resistance or giving a secret message. Her aim was to boost the morale of all troops, regardless of skin color. Because of these performances, she refused to pay, and although she was still frail from her illness, her voice never shook.
Because of all these efforts, Baker became a lieutenant. Auxiliaire feminine, French women’s air assistance.She was also awarded Croix de Chevalier de la Legion du Honneur, NS Croix de guerre, And the Resistance Rosette.
The actions of artist, entertainer, resistance fighter, and anti-racist activist – Josephine Baker make her worthy of a heroic position. Harold Cruse, an African-American studies scholar, was in the North African starry night audience stationed with the Allies.
Looking at her performance, Cruz wrote:Her singing, verbal, body movements, dance movements, and pantomime expressions constitute an art of splendor and personality that is not enough to talk about it. She must be seen.“
With Baker’s memorial at France’s most prestigious burial ground, Cruz’s wishes may certainly come true. Fans flock to once again admire this indomitable entertainer, celebrating her art and culture, and everything she has contributed to France.
Clare V Church is a PhD researcher in history at Aberystwyth University.This article first appeared conversation..