Entertainer & Civil Rights Activist
When you think of Josephine Baker, images of a glamorous dancer in a banana skirt from 1920s and ‘30s Paris come to mind. Baker was one of the most lucrative performers in Europe, but what made her an icon was not just her popularity as a performer, but her fight against discrimination and oppression. During World War II, Baker aided the French Resistance, earning her two of the highest military honors in France. In the ‘50s, she supported the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. And in 1963, she flew to Washington, D.C. from France to speak at the March on Washington—she was the only woman to speak at the rally.
Baker’s impact has transcended time, which earned her a spot in the French Panthéon in 2021. Being inducted into the Panthéon is one of the highest honors one can receive in France, housing icons such as Marie Curie, Voltaire and Victor Hugo. Baker’s induction makes her the first Black woman to receive this honor.