Josephine Baker makes it into the Pantheon

Josephine Baker makes it into the Pantheon


norman lebrecht

August 23, 2021

President Macron’s office confirmed today that the remains of the US-born entertainer and French resistance fighter Joséphine Baker will be brought to their final rest in the Paris Panthéon.

Baker died in Paris in 1975 and was buried in Monaco.

She is thought to be the first non-white woman to enter the Panthéon.


  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Excellent news and about time too. She did so much work helping orphans etc.

  • CRWang says:

    Giving it almost to anyone is better than Trump giving the medal to Rush Limbaugh. You are clearly ignorant about Josephine Baker. Read more about her life before you comment.

  • Carlos Solare says:

    And Berlioz is still waiting…

  • anon says:

    No, Jerry Lewis, as the first foreigner.

  • Save the MET says:

    While there are authors, politicians, scientists and diplomats in the Parisian Pantheon. Not a single French composer and no explanation.

    • Chris Ponto says:

      Evidently, the debate over Berlioz is somewhat controversial. I’ve read that his stated politics were not consistent with the retrospective ideals of honored denizens of the Pantheon.

  • mel says:

    Having visited her grave in Monaco (not too far from Henryk Szeryng btw), I’m not very excited to see her move into a drab, monotonous slab in Paris. An honour, but aesthetically morose.

    • CRWang says:

      But there’s a much higher chance for me to go back to Paris to see her slab than to visit Monaco for the first time. Park or no park, Monaco is very low on my city wish list to visit after not traveling for two years.

      • mel says:

        Sure, but that is centralism. If you *really* want to visit someone’s grave, it being outside of Paris is fine. There are a LOT of French (and NOT French) composers & musicians & singers buried outside of Paris, from Maurice Andre to Milhaud to Onslow.

  • Sisko24 says:

    She will join other French dignitaries there including Marie and Pierre Curie, Victor Hugo and Voltaire. I suppose Voltaire will lead a Candide discussion with them about modern day France?

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Amazing that nearly a century later Josephine Baker still looks “modern”, even to our jaded tastes. A tribute to her uniqueness and a tribute to France’s early embrace of her talents.

    • CRWang says:

      Josephine Baker, Richard Wright, Sidney Bechet, and James Baldwin had to run off to France to escape racism in the US. Sadly, a lot of racists are still around on this forum.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Is dancing in a banana skirt for decadent parisian males not racist? She was better in collecting orphans.

        • CRWang says:

          Deflect, attack, while avoiding the main point. Common trope for bigots. Forget the lynchings, beatings, and humiliation. Hone in on the banana skirt. Old white goats never learn do they?

        • R. Brite says:

          If you don’t realize she was doing a sendup in that number, you don’t know much about Josephine Baker.

          • John Borstlap says:

            He doesn’t know ANYTHING of Josefine Baker. He doesn’t like dancing & the accompanying music if it’s not the ballet thing. And he doesn’t like bananas as well. So there you are!


      • Dzshef K. says:

        Agreed, CRWang. The number of racists and antisemites who think themselves lovers of “Kultur” is truly sad.

        • John Borstlap says:

          I have to love Mrs Baker’s dancing + fruit girdle to prove I’m not a racist, as I have to eat steak every day accompanied with heavy drinking and slapping my dogs to prove that I’m not a nazi because Hitler was the opposite of all of that.

          Some people here really do need some philosophical training to get their brains restructured.

    • NoNo says:

      The oldest métier in the world is always in fashion.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    A friend of mine visited Baker’s house in France, presumably a museum, and commented on her interest in falconry. A complex woman, by all accounts. She’s obviously the inspiration behind Yuja’s outfits!!!:-)

  • This has to be unusual to elevate someone not French, but there must be others since she is not mentioned as the first.

    Who are they?

    • Mike Gibb says:

      She was “an American-born French entertainer, French Resistance agent, and civil rights activist.” (Wikipedia).

    • John Borstlap says:

      According to the Völkische Beobachter, issue May 1942, all inhabitants of the Panthéon are actually German.

    • mel says:

      But considering how long she spent outside of the US (in France) throughout her life, I think she essentially has been as much French. It’s not like footballers switching allegiances, she’s spent a bulk of her life there.