Blood for equality: African soldiers’ struggles for rights after world war II

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The existing literature on the Tirailleurs Sénégalais focuses mainly on the participation of African colonial soldiers in the two world wars, on the discrimination they suffered in the army, and on French ingratitude towards them after independence. While all of these issues are important, my aim in this article is to examine the tirailleurs’ struggles for rights in the aftermath of WWII, with a particular focus on their agency and ability to shape their own destiny. I begin by discussing the tirailleurs’ spontaneous revolts and protests that erupted at demobilization. I then examine the much more calculated struggle of the main veterans’ journal in French West Africa, La Voix des combattants, to advance the veterans’ aims in the post-war decades. Lastly, I explore a particular case of struggle for equality waged by African veterans: The district guards’ fight for better conditions in Ivory Coast and Senegal in the mid-1950s. With these three examples, I demonstrate that the tirailleurs were not just helpless victims of an exploitative colonial system, but also managed to win equality within the army by invoking the sacrifices they had made for France during the two world wars.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTocqueville Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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