Legendary entertainer Josephine Baker is to become the first Black woman to be buried in the Panthéon monument in Paris.
Baker’s body will remain in Monaco, but she will be honored with a memorial. It is one of the highest honors in France.
Baker was St. Louis, Missouri, before she became a global megastar in the 1930s after moving to France in 1925 to flee racism and segregation in the United States.
She became renowned for her “banana skirt” dance routines and performed at some of France’s most prestigious venues — Theatre des Champs-Elysees and the Folies Bergere in Paris. Following her marriage to industrialist Jean Lion in 1937, she became a French citizen.
The Baker family has been petitioning for her induction to the Panthéon since 2013. The petition racked up approximately 38,000 signatures.
“She was an artist, the first Black international star, a muse of the cubists, a resistance fighter during the second world war in the French army, active alongside Martin Luther King in the civil rights fight,” the petition reads.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced the news on Monday, writing that Baker “held high the motto of the French Republic.”
The Élysée Palace also released a statement: “World-renowned music hall artist, committed to the Resistance, tireless anti-racist activist, she was involved in all the fights that bring together citizens of good will, in France and around the world,” the palace’s statement reads in part.
Baker joins scientist Marie Curie, French Resistance fighters Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz and Germaine Tillion, French Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, and Sophie Berthelot. There are just five women buried at the monument, while the monument currently houses the remains of 72 men.
Baker famously spoke out against segregation at the March on Washington in 1963.
“You know, friends, that I do not lie to you when I tell you I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad,” she said, according to the National Women’s History Museum.
It was the same march Martin Luther King Jr delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.