Dr. Ezekiel Walker


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 veterans 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.

About the Author

Matthew Patsis graduated from UCF in May of 2014 with a Bachelor's Degree in History. While attending UCF, Patsis focused his studies in African, modern European, ancient Greek, ancient Roman, and Russian history. His research began as a term paper for HIS 4150, and evolved into grant funded research through the Burnett Research Scholars grant program, where his work won the second place prize in the humanities field at UCF's Showcase of Undergraduate Research.



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