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How many children did Josephine Baker have? Civil rights activist set to become first black woman to receive burial in France's Pantheon

Josephine Baker in 1981 (Image via Associated Press)
Josephine Baker in 1981 (Image via Associated Press)
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Abhirup Sengupta

Josephine Baker will become the first black to get a burial at France's Pantheon. According to a representative of President Emmanuel Macron, the French Civil Rights activist's remains will be moved to the neoclassical church monument in November.

Josephine Baker was born in Missouri in 1906 and buried in Monaco in 1975. She will be moved to a new burial, 46 years after her original one.

A group that included one of her adopted sons has been campaigning for her induction at the Pantheon since 2013. A Change.org petition was set up during the campaign, which has received over 37,000 signatures.

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Of the 80 figures in the Panthéon, only four are women. In 1995, Marie Curie's remains were transferred to there. She was followed by Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Germaine Tillion (both in 2015), and Simone Veil (in 2018).


How many children did Josephine Baker have?

Josephine Baker and 7 of her 12 children (Image via Hulton Deutsh/Getty Images)
Josephine Baker and 7 of her 12 children (Image via Hulton Deutsh/Getty Images)

Josephine Baker (also known as Freda Josephine McDonald) was born in St. Louis, Missouri, US, on June 3, 1906. The singer and actress also served as a resistance agent for French intelligence.

In 1939, Josephine Baker worked for the Deuxième Bureau, the French military intelligence agency, amidst the war between France and Germany. She collected and reported information regarding locations of German troops from officials she met at parties of embassies and ministries.

Josephine began adopting children during the Civil Rights Movement. The American-French entertainer referred to them as "The Rainbow Tribe," as they belonged to different ethnicities.

Baker arranged for tours where the audience could pay to see her children play, perform, and interact at her mansion, Château des Milandes.

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Baker began adopting children in the 1950s. She has two daughters, French-born Marianne and Moroccan-born Stellina, and ten sons. They included Jeannot (born in Korea), Akio (Japanese descent), Luis (Colombian-born), and Jari (now Jarry, from Finland). Three out of her ten sons were French-born: Jean-Claude, Noël, and Moïse.

Furthermore, she adopted Brahim (Algerian descent), Koffi (from the Ivory Coast), and the Venezuela-born Mara.

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Josephine Baker also raised some of her children practicing different religions. Allegedly, she was also reported to have changed the backstories of her children to suit her narrative.

According to author Matthew Pratt Guterl's book Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe, Josephine Baker tried to adopt an Israeli boy. However, her appeal was rejected by the Israeli government, so she adopted a French boy and renamed him, Moses.


Edited by Ravi Iyer
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