American singer and activist Joséphine Baker honored in France
American-born singer and activist Joséphine Baker became the first American and the first black woman to receive France’s highest honor on Tuesday.
Baker became a French citizen in 1937 after marrying a Frenchman.
Baker was honored in a ceremony outside the Pantheon in France.
The Pantheon is a building that houses the remains of famous French people, including Marie Curie, Victor Hugo and Voltaire.
Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906. She moved to Paris in 1925 to get away from racism and segregation in the USA.
She was famous around the world as a singer in the 1930s. But she also became known for joining resistance to Nazi Germany in France during World War II.
She later supported the American civil rights movement in the 1960s. She spoke at the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Earlier in 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron decided to honor Baker because she was a “exceptional figureWhich “embodies the French spirit”.
Baker’s remains will remain in Monaco where she lived at the end of her life. However, a funeral container containing soil from the United States, France and Monaco will be placed in the Pantheon.
Baker was honored Monday in a ceremony at the place where she is buried in Monaco.
Rosemary Phillips is an interpreter and co-owner of Parc Baker created in the southwest of France. She said Baker was a “superstar” and the “Rihanna of the 1920s”. Rihanna is one of the most famous singers today.
Pap Ndiaye is a French scholar who studies minority rights movements in the United States. He said: “the mere fact that a black woman enters the pantheon is historic”.
Baker was famous for dancing in short skirts and was popular in Parisian theaters. But Ndiaye said people disagreed about his performance. He said that when she sang in Paris, France had colonies in Africa.
Baker was one of the many famous black Americans who lived in France during the years following the World Wars. Ndiaye said they had “a better life overall” than if they had stayed in the United States. French racism, he said, was “more subtle. “
I am Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learn English based on an Associated Press report. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
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Words in this story
segregation – not. the policy of separating people of different races, religions or ethnic groups from one another
exceptional – adj. not usual: unusual or rare
figure -not. a person who has a specific status or who is considered in a specific way
subtle – adj. hard to notice or see