African Nationalism: The Influence of War Upon African Independence
Children screaming, bombs blasting, and canons roaring overhead. Who would have thought that such destruction could allow for a country to become a self reliant, nationalist state? Black Africans witnessed the horrors of war in both WWI and WWII from the front lines. Allied forces used thousands of Black Africans to assist them in defending Europe. During WWI, the number of Africans who died serving France in Europe was proportionate to overall death figures. During WWII, however, the contribution of African military troops was disproportionate to that of Metropolitan France. Soldiers were attracted to the army by promises of material reward or else they were dragooned by force. Their experiences had altered their ideas, attitudes, and habits during the war making them not only receptive to additional changes in the post-war years - especially socio-economic, military, and political - but also inclined others to compel others to follow suit. In WWII Africans played a crucial role in the defeat of Fascism, while also partaking in key battles such as the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. As described in the articles by Echenberg and Mathews, and the film entitled Winds of Change, the role of Africans in WWI and WWII strengthened African nationalism and pushed African colonies toward independence from colonial rule.
In the article 'Morts Pour la France'; The African Soldier in France During the Second World War, author Mark Echenberg traces the social history of the diverse West African group who had served in the “Senegalese” regiment of the French colonial army. He examines how both the veterans and soldiers lived out their lives serving the French and how life in the military functioned. Echenberg’s main focus is on African soldiers and veteran perceptions in their response to their contradictory position within the social formation. Between the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939...
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