Blaise Diagne was one of the most important figures in the history of African politics. He fought diligently for equal rights as a citizen of France for the people of his home country of Senegal. Born in Senegal to traditional African parents, he was adopted by Adolphe Crespin at a young age. It was Crespin who gave him the name Blaise as his Christian name once he was baptized. This afforded him many opportunities not available to most African children, and he took full advantage. He excelled throughout school and eventually became a customs agent for the French government in 1892. For the next 22 years Diagne spent his days experiencing the negative side of colonialism. This experience had a big role in influencing his decision to get involved in politics. In 1914 he became the first black African in the French government, and his political career only went up from there. He eventually became the dominant political presence in Senegal's Four Communes, whose people he spent his entire career advocating for. From 1914 until his death in 1934 he never lost an election. This is a testament to his strong moral compass that guided his principle of equal rights for all.
Childhood & Early Life
Blaise Diagne was born on October 13, 1872, on Goree Island, Senegal. His father was a cook while his mother was a servant.
His birth name was Galaye M'baye Diagne. He was given the name Blaise when he was adopted by Adolphe Crespin. Crespin had him baptized and gave him the name Blaise as his Christian name.
Diagne completed his primary education at the Brother of Ploemel School. He excelled in primary school and completed his secondary education in Aix-en-Provence, France.
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Diagne passed the French Customs Service entrance examination in 1891. He started his career as a customs agent the following year.
His first assignment was in Dahomey in 1892.
Diagne was a busy man from 1896 to 1914. During this time period he worked in Dakar, the French Congo, the island of Reunion, Madagascar, and French Guyana.
In 1914, he returned to Senegal to begin a career in politics. He ran for a seat in the French National Assembly and won, beating out Francois Carpot.
He made an impact in office immediately. In 1916, he put up the bill proposing full French Citizen ship for four coastal communities in Senegal known as "The Four Communes".
In 1916, he was appointed to the position of General Governor of recruitment for troops in French West Africa. His responsibility was to negotiate fair conditions for French soldiers.
From 1918 to 1920, Digane served as Commissioner General of the Ministry of Colonies. He was responsible for the welfare of workers and soldiers in France's African colonies.
In 1919, Diagne created the Republican Socialist Party. The party won control of the four local governments in the Four Communes. In the same year he started the newspaper "La Democratie". He later renamed it "L'Quest Africain Francais".
From 1920 to 1934, Diagne served as mayor of Dakar. He became the face of politics in the Four Communes.
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Diagne spent the rest of his time in office advocating for French rights for the people of Senegal. In 1930 he spoke against assimilation and forced labor before the International Labor Organization.
In 1931 he was appointed to the position of Deputy Minister of the Colonies. He held this position until his death in 1934.
Blaise Diagne's career was one that revolved around equality not just for the Sengalese, but for all people.
During his 22 years as a customs agent working in France's African colonies he witnessed first-hand various civil injustices. This fueled his dedication to a political career, which advocated equal rights for all.
His other major work was his election to the French National Assembly in 1914. He was the first African to be elected to the French government, which cemented his place in the history of African Politics.
Personal Life & Legacy
H is son Raoul was the first black to play professional soccer in France. He won several titles in the 1930s and 40s with various clubs.
He died of Tuberculosis on May 11, 1934.
He has a boulevard in Senegal named after him, as well as a high school in Dakar and Senegal's international airport.
Diagne was a Freemason and a member of the Grand Orient de France.
He was the first black African to hold a senior position in the French government.