The idea that the Great War was an essentially European event is gradually changing.
The enclosed photos are of African soldiers who fought alongside the French Army in World War One and are rare examples of contemporary photographs taken and reproduced in colour, bringing the conflict to light in a powerful new way. The images are of Senegalese and Algerian soldiers and are contained along with hundreds of others on a French language web site here. Many are reproduced on the English language World War One colour photos site here.
The story of African soldiers in the First World War has received little attention at a popular level until recently. The facts are that both
Of the 1,186,000 French troops killed or missing in action in WWI, 71,100 were from the French colonies of
A major loss of life occurred when the SS Mendi was sunk in the
Africa’s other main contribution to the First World War was as an arena of battle – in fact, the first and last shots of the war were fired in Africa. In Tip and Run, Edward Paice Phoenix describes the opening hostilities on the boarder of German Togoland as the British West African Frontier Force attempted to protect British shipping from German colonial forces. In East Africa, meanwhile, the British navy was shelling German positions in
The War in
South African writer Hamilton Wende has argued that the experience gained by black Africans who fought in the East Africa campaign was one source of inspiration for the liberation movements that emerged in
Private Wayne Miner of
Many photos and other original documents can be found at the rootsweb site here
Jami Bryan has written a helpful introduction to the African-American experience in WWI here.
For more reading on African American soldiers in WWI, please see:
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