The online petition has now gathered 50,000 signatures and local authorities in Paris have also backed the move to have the black star re-interred in the Panthéon along with the most famous names in French history.
The petition was started by essayist Laurent Kupferman and has received backing from French celebrities including former culture minister Jack Lang, TV presenter Stephane Bern and actress Line Renaud.
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Avec plusieurs collègues, nous écrivons à @EmmanuelMacron pour soutenir la démarche d’#osezjosephine et demander l’entrée à Panthéon de Josephine Baker. Artiste pionnière, militante anti-raciste, héroïne de guerre, beaucoup ignorent son parcours.
Rendons lui le juste hommage. ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/rrLxvpL6yA
— Damien ADAM (@damienadam76) June 4, 2021
Kupferman said: “Josephine Baker was a free and committed woman, a feminist, a resistance fighter, and a committed activist against racism and anti-Semitism. In a world turned in on itself where division and racism are exacerbated, her struggle finds a natural resonance today.”
Born in the USA, Baker moved to Paris in the 1930s where she quickly became famous for her risqué cabaret acts, which famously included dancing in nothing but a skirt made of bananas.
Fleeing racism and segregation in America, Baker became a devotee of France, later marrying a Frenchman and taking French citizenship.
When war broke out in 1939 she remained in France and became a member of the Resistance, using her fame to extract valuable information from military leaders.
After the war she became involved in civil rights battles in the USA and Europe and adopted 12 children.
She died in Paris in 1975, but was buried in Monaco, where she was living in her final years.
🌟 #OsezJoséphine !
— 💥 Boris Jamet-Fournier (@boris_tweets) July 7, 2021
The idea of having her body moved to the Panthéon was first put forward in 2013 under François Hollande’s government but was not approved.
Now supporters hope she can be given this final honour, which would make her only the sixth woman buried in the Panthéon.
Entry to the Panthéon is France’s highest posthumous honour, extended to those who have performed a great service to the country.
The final decision lies with the president, although in recent years there have been public votes on deserving candidates.
Earlier this year, Macron rejected a call to move poet Arthur Rimbaud to the Panthéon, saying he did not want to go against the wishes of Rimbaud’s family. Supporters had called for the poet to be moved to the Pathéon and buried next to his lover Paul Verlaine.
However in 2020 he presided over a ceremony to inter writer and World War II hero Maurice Genevoix in the Paris monument.
You can sign the Josephine Baker petition here.