The second episode of this series reveals the ongoing struggles of immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean to achieve rights, form communities and have their contributions to French society recognise.
During World War II, Africa once again answered France’s call to battle, but this time the motivation was different. Black soldiers were not just fighting for France; they were combating the racist ideologies of Nazi Germany.
But while France and the allies defeated the Axis with the help of black soldiers, the war for social justice was only gearing up across the French colonial empire.
In 1945, during France’s post-war elections, blacks saw their first major victory. More than 60 overseas deputies were sworn into France’s National Assembly. One year later, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion and French Guiana became French departments following 300 years of colonial rule.
Departmentalisation, and then President Georges Pompidou’s decision to establish the Office for the Promotion of Migration in the early 1960s, opened a door between France and its departments. Almost 200,000 blacks immigrated to French cities in search of education and work.
But they faced poverty, racism and segregation. And they struggled to gain acceptance in cultural, academic and social realms of French society.