Images from Josephine Baker's dazzling life are projected on the facade of the Panthéon, and a children's choir sings her song “Dans mon village”.

For the first time, on Tuesday evening, France welcomed a native American and black woman to the national temple of heroes, where famous personalities such as Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Émile Zola and Alexandre Dumas rest in a solemn ceremony.

President Emmanuel Macron emphasized that the honor would be given to the artist, resistance fighter, black civil rights activist and French voter.

Baker's son Brian, one of Baker's twelve adopted children, had campaigned for years for his famous mother to be accepted into the Panthéon.

Almost 40,000 French signed a petition, and Emmanuel Macron finally made the move possible. 

Michaela Wiegel

Political correspondent based in Paris.

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When Freda Josephine McDonald was born in a slum area in Saint Louis in 1906, there was nothing to suggest that she should one day be honored as an immortal.

In her American home in the state of Missouri, she experienced early on what it means to be darker skin color.

At the age of eight she had to work as a maid, experienced pogroms against blacks at the age of eleven and was forcibly married at the age of thirteen.

She managed to hire a dance troupe and dodged her ensemble all the way to Broadway.

At the age of 19 she came to Paris for the first time on tour.

The "Revue Nègre", as the stage number was called at the time, was a huge success.

Baker tapped and bobbed in banana rock on stage and made hot jazz socially acceptable.

"They carry me on their hands"

In 1926 she was celebrated in Berlin as the "black Venus".

“Berlin, that's really great!

A triumphal procession.

You carry me on your hands, ”noted Baker in her memoir.

She almost stayed on the Spree, but then Les Folies Bergère made such a good offer that she was drawn back to the Seine.

In 1937 she took French citizenship.

She was at the height of her fame when World War II broke out.

Before the Wehrmacht invaded France in September 1939, she was recruited by the French Air Force.

As a show star, she appeared in front of the troops, at the same time she was commissioned with secret service missions.

She supported the Resistance and discreetly listened to the Nazi occupiers.

In 1957 she was awarded the Croix de Guerre for this.

Their medals were also transferred to the Panthéon on Tuesday.

Baker later fought for civil rights in the United States and supported Martin Luther King.

In 1951 a tour in New York ended in scandal.

As a black woman, she was not served in the famous Stork Club.

"I'm black, but I'm French," said Baker once, "it's my country, the only one where a person can live in peace"

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