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Musical legend Josephine Baker to enter France's Pantheon

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The remains of Josephine Baker, a famed French-American dancer, singer and actress who also fought in the French resistance during WWII, will be moved to the Pantheon mausoleum in November, an aide to President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday.

It will make Baker, who was born in Missouri in 1906 and buried in Monaco in 1975, the first Black woman to be laid to rest in the hallowed Parisian monument.

A group including one of Baker's sons campaigning for her induction met with Macron on July 21, Jennifer Guesdon, one of the members, told AFP.

"When the president said yes, (it was a) great joy," she said.

"It's a yes!" Macron said after the July meeting, Le Parisien newspaper reported on Sunday.

An aide to Macron confirmed to AFP that the ceremony will take place on November 30.

"Pantheonisation is built over a long period of time," the aide said.

The Baker family have been requesting her induction since 2013, with a petition gathering some 38,000 signatures.

"She was an artist, the first Black international star, a muse of the cubists, a resistance fighter during WWII in the French army, active alongside Martin Luther King in the civil rights fight," the petition says.

Another member of the campaign group, Pascal Bruckner, said Baker "is a symbol of a France that is not racist, contrary to what some media groups say".

"Josephine Baker is a true anti-racist, a true anti-fascist," Bruckner said.

The ceremony will take place on November 30, the date Baker married Frenchman Jean Lion, allowing her to get French nationality.

The Pantheon is a memorial complex for great national figures in French history from the world of politics, culture and science.

Only the president can decide on moving personalities to the former church, whose grand columns and domed roof were inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.

Of the 80 figures in the Pantheon, only five are women, including the last inductee Simone Veil, a former French minister who survived the Holocaust and fought for abortion rights, who entered in 2018. -- AFP

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