On November 30, 2021, French ConneXions Center of Excellence, the Romance Languages and Literatures Department, and the Divided City Initiative celebrated Josephine Baker’s interment into the Panthéon in Paris. The event included prominent speakers, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, Chancellor Andrew Martin, French General Consul Yannick Tagand, and a panel of experts on race, dance, and Josephine Baker.
The Celebration highlighted the enormous figure of Josephine Baker, both as an activist and an entertainer. Baker, born in St. Louis, moved to Paris where she embarked upon a prolific career in entertainment. During World War II, she was a Nazi-Resistance figure and throughout her life, she was a consistent, strong voice against racism in both France and the United States.
The Celebrating Josephine Baker event encapsulated the essence of the influence of Josephine Baker especially through the context of Franco-American relations. The speakers highlighted how Baker’s fight against racism in the 1900s resembles our current struggle against the forces of racism and intolerance. The academic panel gave students the opportunity to become engaged with the understanding of Josephine’s importance in dance, entertainment, and the fight for social justice. To cap it off, performances from the St. Louis Immersion School’s French 5th grade and singers from the WashU student community helped to create a memorable event that did justice to a figure that has left an indelible mark on our St. Louis community.
WashU Student Meher Arora singing J'ai deux amours.