Eric Jennings, Distinguished Professor of the History of France and the Francophone World in the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Department of History, spoke with two French television networks to discuss the little-known history of Africa in the charge of “Free France” during the Second World War.
His interviews with France 24 and TV5MONDE highlighted two important anniversaries in France’s war effort. On June 18, 1940, speaking from exile in London, General Charles de Gaulle made his appeal to the French resistance to Nazi Germany over the airwaves of the BBC, an act that founded Free France.
On August 26, 1940, Chad became the first African colony to join Free France, followed the next day by Cameroon and then French Congo on August 28.
Jennings, a leading authority in the fields of modern French colonial history, explained how Free France drew its strength from 1940 to 1943 from fighting men, resources and operations in French Equatorial Africa rather than London. During that time, African soldiers represented about one third of Free France’s military forces and Brazzaville was the capital of Free France much more so than London.
As well, between 1940 and 1942, Free French forces fought largely on African soil against Italy and Germany in Libya and in the Horn of Africa. Yet Free France’s Africanness has been systematically overlooked. Jennings first built this argument in his book Free French Africa in World War II: The African Resistance, which initially appeared in French as La France libre fut africaine.