Black Venus in the Pantheon

Joséphine Baker (born on 3 June 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri) was not only an American-born French dancer, singer and actress, but also a French Resistance agent and civil rights activist.
She spent her youth in poverty before learning to dance and finding success on Broadway. In the 1920s she moved to France and soon became one of the most popular and highest-paid performers in Europe.
Her rise to stardom on the stage of Paris’s famous cabaret music hall, the Folies Bergère, made her a symbol of wealth and freedom, admired in her costume, consisting of only a short skirt of artificial bananas and a beaded necklace, which became an iconic image and a symbol both of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties.

Baker had several nicknames: the “Black Venus”, the “Black Pearl”, the “Bronze Venus“, and the “Creole Goddess”.

During the German occupation of France, she worked with the Red Cross and the Résistance, for which she was later awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour.

She devoted much of her life to fighting segregation and racism and appeared in front of the Lincoln Memorial , wearing her uniform of the French Resistance, giving a speech just before Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” oration. on 28 August 1963.
Following King’s assassination in 1968, she was offered unofficial leadership in the movement in the United States by Coretta Scott King. After many days of thinking it over, Baker declined, saying her children were “too young to lose their mother.”
In the 1950s , long before Angelina Jolie, Mia Farrow and Madonna, she began to adopt children of various ethnic backgrounds from all over the world: her “rainbow tribe ” consisted of 12 children.

She died in 1975 and a few months ago, on 30 November 2021, she was inducted into the Panthéon in Paris, the sixth woman and the first black woman to receive one of the highest French honours.
(The Panthéon, which means a temple dedicated to all the gods, is a monument in Paris that has served as a mausoleum for distinguished persons since the era of the French Revolution)
In his speech, President Emmanuel Macron honoured Joséphine Baker as a woman who “broke down barriers … and became part of the hearts and minds of French people”
He said :

Héroïne de guerre, combattante, danseuse, chanteuse, noire défendant les noirs mais d’abord femme défendant le genre humain, américaine et française. Joséphine Baker mena tant de combats avec liberté, légèreté, gaieté. (…) Elle fit à chaque tournant de l’histoire les justes choix, distinguant toujours les lumières des ténèbres.
(…)Elle a voulu prouver au reste du monde que les couleurs de peau, les origines, les religions pouvaient non seulement cohabiter mais aussi vivre en harmonie”

“War heroine, fighter, dancer, singer, black defending blacks but first of all, a woman defending humankind. American and French, Josephine Baker fought so many battles with lightness, freedom, joy. (…)She made the right choices at each turn of history, always distinguishing light from darkness.
(…) She wanted to prove to the rest of the world that skin colours, origins, religions could not only cohabit but also live in harmony”

Joséphine Baker (nata il 3 giugno 1906 a St. Louis, Missouri) fu non solo una ballerina, cantante e attrice francese di origine americana, ma anche agente della Resistenza francese e attivista per i diritti civili.
Joséphine trascorse la giovinezza in povertà prima di imparare a ballare e trovare successo a Broadway. Negli anni ’20 si trasferì in Francia e divenne presto una delle interpreti più popolari e più pagate d’Europa
L’ascesa alla celebrità sul palcoscenico del famoso music hall di Parigi, le Folies Bergère, la rese un simbolo di ricchezza e libertà, ammirata nel suo costume, composto solo da una gonnellina di banane artificiali e una collana di perline, che è diventato un’immagine iconica e un simbolo sia dell’età del jazz che dei ruggenti anni Venti.

La Baker ebbe parecchi soprannomi: la “Venere Nera”, la “Perla Nera”, la “Venere di bronzo” e la “Dea creola”.

Durante l’occupazione tedesca della Francia, lavorò con la Croce Rossa e la Resistenza, per cui ricevette in seguito ricevette la Croix de Guerre e la Legion d’Onore.

Dedicò gran parte della sua vita a combattere la segregazione e il razzismo e apparve davanti al Lincoln Memorial, indossando la sua uniforme della Resistenza francese, tenendo un discorso poco prima che il Martin Luther King pronunciasse la sua famosa orazione “I Have a Dream” il 28 agosto 1963

Dopo l’assassinio di King nel 1968, Coretta King le offrì la leadership non ufficiale nel movimento negli Stati Uniti, ma dopo molti giorni di riflessione, Baker rifiutò, dicendo che i suoi figli erano “troppo piccoli per perdere la madre”.
Negli anni ’50, molto prima di Angelina Jolie, Mia Farrow e Madonna, iniziò ad adottare bambini di varie etnie provenienti da tutto il mondo: la sua “tribù arcobaleno” era composta da 12 figli.
E’ morta nel 1975 e pochi mesi fa, il 30 novembre 2021, è stata inserita nel Panthéon di Parigi, la sesta donna e la prima donna di colore a ricevere una delle più alte onorificenze francesi
(Il Panthéon, che significa tempio dedicato a tutti gli dei, è un monumento a Parigi che serve da mausoleo per personaggi illustri sin dall’era della Rivoluzione francese)

Nel suo discorso, il presidente Emmanuel Macron ha onorato la Baker definendola una donna che “ha abbattuto le barriere… ed è diventata parte dei cuori e delle menti dei francesi”
Egli ha detto;

“Héroïne de guerre, combattante, danseuse, chanteuse, noire défendant les noirs mais d’abord femme défendant le gender humain. Américaine et française. Joséphine Baker mena tant de combats avec liberté, légèreté, gaieté. (…) Elle fit à chaque tournant de l’histoire les justes choix, distinti toujours les lumières des ténèbres.
(…) Elle a voulu prouver au reste du monde que les couleurs de peau, les origines, les religions pouvaient non seulement cohabiter mais aussi vivre en harmonie “

Eroina di guerra, combattente, ballerina, cantante, nera che difende i neri ma prima di tutto una donna che difende l’umanità. Americana e francese, Joséphine Baker ha condotto tante battaglie con leggerezza, libertà, gioia”. (…) Ha fatto le scelte giuste ad ogni svolta della storia, distinguendo sempre la luce dalle tenebre.
(…) Ha voluto dimostrare al resto del mondo che il colore della pelle, le origini, le religioni potevano non solo convivere ma anche vivere in armonia”

81 thoughts on “Black Venus in the Pantheon

  1. Very very interesting and very very inspiring. This is the kind of post that everyone needs to read and not just women. What a brave, noble, beautiful soul! Josephine Baker deserves a standing ovation for being a role model to other women. I am so proud of her and also you, dear Luisa for coming up with great inspiring, motivational stories. Hats off to the legend and congratulations to you. 😊😊😊👏👏👏👏👏👏👌👌👌👌👌👌🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰. Excellent work.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. 😘😘🥰🥰🥰😍😍😊😊. Thank you so much for presenting wonderful inspirational articles on great personalities from all over the world.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Her ‘ Rainbow Tribe ‘ consisting of twelve children of different countries was a clear symbol of all inclusion of human race . A poor child when became a dancer , an actress , a stage performer and a human right activist , she turned into what is called Black Venus . And she truly got accolades from the French President Emmanuel Macron as ‘ ….. part of the hearts and minds of the French people ‘. Thank you Luisa for making us aware about such a giant black lady of American origin who was inducted into the Pantheon in Paris .

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You are most welcome!
        By the way, I found out the wonderful Italian painter, woman. She lived in Italy all her life in Rome but was Swiss by birth. Her name was Angelica Kauffman, her father was a painter too. My Goodness, she could paint!

        Joanna

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Luisa, thank you for remembering this woman for her well-deserved accomplishments. I’d love to read more about the Resistance activities, so I may need to check out a bibliography on her. Also congratulations to France for the acknowledgement of her accomplishments.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This post is good on so many levels Luisa. It brings back memories of seeing her home in the Dordogne for starters, but it also brings back memories of the Pigalle (don’t ask), but more to the point, it shows what a remarkable woman she was.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Josephine Baker was a remarkable lady. I recently watched a biopic about her which mentioned that, after all her success in Paris, she couldn’t find find a hotel room when she visited New York City because of the color of her skin. 😦

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Great post about a great lady. I saw a movie about her last year. My mind is blank though because I can’t remember if it was a biopic (a drama) or a documentary. I think perhaps the latter. (PS: Death was 1975 not 1965) ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Before I sold my large collection of old 78 rpm records several years ago, I owned quite a few of Josephine Baker’s original recordings (and still own a double LP containing 28 of her songs, including LA VIE EN ROSE).

    Thanks for this very interesting post.

    Liked by 2 people

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