University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal - The Legacy of African Veterans of World War II and Their Role in the Independence Movements of the Mid–Century
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Throughout the First and Second World Wars, armies of African soldiers fought in defense of European interests, while being relegated to colonial status and making very little progress toward gaining independence of their own. The focus of this article is Léopold Senghor, the first president of independent Senegal, and the profound impact he had as a war veteran and member of the Tirailleurs Sénégalais (Senegalese Skirmishers) on independence movements in French West Africa. This essay will then examine the origins of post–war independence movements, the role that veterns like Senghor played in these movements, and the means by which they broke free from France. This essay builds on the work of historians Frederick Cooper, Myron Echenberg, Gregory Mann, Nancy Lawler, and others to paint a more comprehensive picture of veteran participation in independence, while using Léopold Senghor as a constant thread to help explain why veterans who had reason to remain loyal to the French colonial empire decided to break free from it.

KEYWORDS: Léopold Senghor, Africa, Senegal, France, World War II, Decolonization, Colonialism

Case Study: Léopold Sédar Senghor >>