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Sun, 10.13.1872

Blaise Diagne, Legislator, and Diplomat born

Blaise Diagne

*Blaise Diagne was born on this date in 1872. He was a Black Senegalese and French political leader.

He was born Gnagna Anthony Preira Diagne in Gorée to a Senegalese Lebu father (Niokhor Diagne), a cook and sailor, and a Manjack mother of Guinea-Bissau origin. They baptized him as "Blaise."  He studied in France before joining the French customs service in 1892. He served in DahomeyFrench Congo, Réunion, Madagascar, and French Guiana. In September 1899, while in Réunion, Diagne became a freemason, joining a lodge affiliated with the Grand Orient de France.

Diagne was elected to the Chamber of Deputies of France in 1914 as the representative for the Four Communes. He served until he died in 1934. From 1914 to 1917 he caucused with the Marxist-socialist Section française de l'Internationale ouvrière, forerunner of the French Socialist Party. In 1914 after recently becoming the newly elected deputy of Senegal, Diagne was critical in the government intervention in an outbreak of plague which struck Dakar.

In 1916 Diagne convinced the French parliament to approve a law (Loi "Blaise Diagne") granting full citizenship to all residents of the so-called Four Communes in Senegal. This extension of citizenship occurred during World War I when the French needed to recruit its African population into the military. As part of Diagne's deal with the French to grant citizenship, he helped them organize military recruitment in Senegal. He was a leading recruiter for the French army during World War I when thousands of black West Africans fought on the Western Front for France.

After the war, from October 1918 to January 1920, he served as Commissioner General of the Ministry of the Colonies. He represented France in the International Labor Office, the secretariat of the International Labor Organization, in 1930. From January 1931 to February 1932, he was Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. From 1920 to 1934, he served as mayor of Dakar. He was the first person of West African origin elected to the French Chamber of Deputies and the first to hold a position in the French government. Blaise Diagne died on May 11, 1934.

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