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Baker Scores a Special Spot in the Panthéon

Volume XIX, Issue 42

Publicity photo of Josephine Baker in feathered costume

It’s amazing, but the provocative American performer Joséphine Baker is about to be the first black woman to enter France’s Panthéon mausoleum and to receive such an honor. Other celebrities entombed there include scientist Marie Curie and writer Victor Hugo. There are only five other women to have been so honored, out of about 80 national heroes there.

This is a BIG DEAL.

Joshephine Baker in banana costumeJosephine was a seriously cool dame, having been born in St Louis, Missouri in 1906. It’s thanks to her move to France that she rose to international stardom in the 1930s. The US would not have treated her as royally at the time, we are confident. Not only was she a major star, but she was also a resistance fighter during World War II, and in addition, fought for civil rights in the US (along side Martin Luther King Jr, when he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech). Her induction into the Panthéon recognizes not only her contribution to the performing arts, but also her courage in actively resisting Nazi Germany during the war (she used her celebrity connections to gather information on German troop movements which she passed on, scribbled on musical scores). She received the Legion of Honor award in France as long ago as 1961.

She died in 1975 and at the moment, her body is in Monaco, and will actually stay there. But on November 30th, a memorial plaque will be placed in the Panthéon. Her induction came as a result of a petition with about 38,000 signatures plus a group of personalities who came to plead for this initiative, including “novelist Pascal Bruckner, singer Laurent Voulzy, entrepreneur Jennifer Guesdon, essayist Laurent Kupferman and especially Brian Bouillon-Baker, one of Josephine Baker’s sons.” French President Emmanuel Macron couldn’t say “no” to such a plea.

Baker rented the Château des Milandes in 1940 and then bought it in 1947. The manor house is in the commune of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle in the Dordogne département. “Built by François de Caumont sometime around the year 1489, it was until 1535, the main house of the lords of Caumont, who preferred to live in this manor house instead of the large, uncomfortable medieval castle of Château de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle.” (Wikipedia.org) It is listed as a “monument historique” by the French Ministry of Culture.

An old photo of Château des Milandes

The story about Baker and the château is both fascinating and tragic. She married a famous orchestra conductor in the chapel there, and founded a “Global Village, the Capital of Universal Fraternity” to show how important it is that children of different nationalities and different religions could live together in peace. Smitten with children, she adopted 12 children of different nationalities and religions, forming what she called the “Rainbow Tribe.”

Josephine Baker's Rainbow Tribe of children

Josephine’s Rainbow Tribe

Things ended up not going so well for Josephine, as she was a bit too naive and trusting. As a result, she went into serious debt. In 1964, her beloved château went up for auction. Brigitte Bardot stepped in to try to rescue her by making an appeal to the people of France. In 1968 it was sold to the highest bidder, who put the property up for investment. That’s when she tried desperately to hold on to it by locking herself in the kitchen! Sadly, she got booted out and was emotionally so drained that she landed in a hospital nearby.

Current photo of Château des Milandes

Château des Milandes

It felt as if France was her demise in the end. At the age of 62, she moved to Roquebrune on the Côte d’Azur with the assistance of Princes Grace of Monaco (Grace Kelly) and went back to the stage to work and pay off some of the debt. Her strength didn’t last long, however, and she died in 1975 from a cerebral hemorrhage, then was buried in Monaco.

(You can read the entire story on the website)

The château can be visited now, individually or in groups. For group information, download the PDF.

Brochure cover for tours of Château des Milandes

JOIN ME FOR “JOSÉPHINE EN ROSE” NOVEMBER 30, 2021 IN PARIS

Poster for Josephine en RoseMaison Noire Américaine + The Brian Scott Bagley Company + Little Africa + Treize au Jardin have partnered to host JOSEPHINE EN ROSE, a champagne cocktail celebration on November 30, 2021, in honor of Ms. Baker’s induction into the Pantheon in Paris, France.

Baker will be the first Black woman and one of the very few foreign-born figures with a plaque at the monument, recognized alongside other French national icons such as Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Simone Veil.

Join us for an incredible evening of Baker-inspired cocktails and amuses bouches courtesy of TREIZE AU JARDIN and Cordon Bleu-trained CHEF DWAYNE WHITE as well as an illustrious group of speakers and performers at LITTLE AFRICA’S BRAND NEW CONCEPT STORE as we commemorate this historically significant event in veneration of JOSÉPHINE BAKER, the amazing mother, civil rights activist, French Resistance member, entertainer, and global icon whose life has inspired generations around the world.

GUEST SPEAKERS/PERFORMERS INCLUDE: Ellen Wright-Hervé, granddaughter of the legendary author Richard Wright; actress/dancer/singer Nicholle Rochelle, of the highly acclaimed “Searching for Josephine/A la Recherche de Joséphine;” Ricki Stevenson of the award-winning Black Paris Tours; Paris-based creator/songstress Crystal Petit-Knight, and more.

HAVE A GROUP OF 10 OR MORE? Receive a group rate of €45 per person for General Admission and €18.75 per person for Student/Children Under 12 when you select one of the group rate options at checkout!

CAN’T MAKE IT? DONATE! If you are unable to attend the event, but would like to make a donation, select the “Donation” option at check out!

PLEASE BE ADVISED: COVID SAFETY PRECAUTIONS WILL BE STRICTLY UPHELD. MASKS AND PASSE SANITAIRE/PROOF OF VACCINATION ARE REQUIRED FOR ENTRY.

PURCHASE TICKET/DONATE NOW!

We can’t wait to celebrate with you!

A bientôt

Adrian Leeds in one of her brightly colored baretsAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Looking down from the upper level into the salon of a FractionalP.S. Fractional ownership is a perfect way of combining lifestyle with investments! To learn more, visit our website and see all of our Fractional Ownership properties currently on the market!

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2 Comments

  1. LaVerne Laxen on November 4, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    Dear Adrian,
    Thank you for taking the time to write such a delightful and informative blog into life and opportunities in France. Like almost everyone, of course my dream is to live in Paris instead of just enjoying a few brief visits.
    P.S. We are always delighted when you are the host of a House Hunters International episode… a smile for our day.

    • Adrian Leeds Group on November 5, 2021 at 7:35 am

      Many thanks!

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