African History 5: Colonial Africa in WWII
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If you thought that Europe was done using Africa for stuff by the 1900s, boy were you wrong. They kinda-sorta even got Africa involved with starting a war. Seriously. They mucked things up pretty bad back then.
|World History||African History|
See, the British were pretty neurotic about their precious little Suez Canal.
They freaked out whenever anyone got near it, like a dog with its favorite chew toy. [Dog with a bone and man holding stop sign]
By locking down colonial control over Libya and Ethiopia, Italy was getting near it in
a big way.
The British were one missed teatime from declaring war and taking Italian East Africa for themselves. [British man drinking tea]
And Italy's fascist leaders knew it.
Italy knew it needed some allies to back it up.
When they invaded Ethiopia, Germany was the only other nation that had their backs. [Italy running and Germany standing behind them]
So in late 1935, Italy and Germany became BFFs.
We bet they even traded creepy friendship bracelets.
This alliance was a major reason that Germany felt confident enough to attack Poland in [Germany points gun at Poland]
1939, starting World War II.
After the war began, Africa became super important.
France and Belgium had been invaded and conquered.
Hm... wonder if that made them feel bad about the African lands they’d invaded and conquered…
What happened instead was the formation of the Free French and Free Belgian forces.
While officially headquartered in London, they sucked most of their resources and manpower [Man uses vacuum on resources]
from African colonies.
Between 65 and 90 percent of these supposedly Free Forces were actually conscripts, who
were forced to fight.
So really they should’ve been called the…Free If You’re White Forces. [Man holding up cup]
But…that doesn’t have the same ring to it.
French, Belgium, and British forces teamed up to resist fascist expansion in Africa.
It was like The Avengers…well, if the Avengers forced other heroes to go fight aliens and [Hulk and Captain America appear and man shoots villains]
It’s not too hard to understand why Africans had to be forced to fight. [African soldiers firing guns]
One of the Allies, Belgium, had recently committed the worst genocide in African history.
Even the comparatively kinder and gentler Britain and France operated governments that
oppressed, starved, and exploited their own people.
“Fight for your overlord”…didn't make for a great recruitment slogan. [African people look at advertisement board]
That said, it isn’t true that every single African who fought in World War II was totally
forced to do it.
Italy's conquest of Ethiopia was like going up to every Pan-Africanist in the world and
punching them right in the kidneys. [Italy punching Africa]
So…many Africans were looking for some payback.
To keep up morale, the British, French, and Belgians told African soldiers that they were
important and valuable citizens of their empires. [French, British and Belgian man in meeting with African soldier]
Many African soldiers, even those forced to fight, started to believe in the dream that,
through military service, they could be seen as able citizens who deserved basic rights.
But after the Allies won, this dream got popped like a… sad birthday balloon.
For one, their contributions to the war effort were completely ignored. [Africa firing a rifle]
And…surprise surprise...the ones who made it home were once again treated horribly by
the British, French, and Belgian colonial regimes. [French, Belgian and English men mistreating Africa]
The colonial response?
They laughed it off, doing the 1940s equivalent of texting…
…U MAD BRO?