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Séché, Alphonse
Les Noirs D’Après des Documents Officiels. Préface du Génèral Mangin

Paris: Payot & Cie, 1919, “troisieme mille”, octavo, [6] [7] - 256, [2 blank] pp., original yellow printed paper wrappers, some dustiness to wraps, else very good.

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This book was an important source book for W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Black Man and the Wounded World: A History of the Negro Race in the World War and After, the work was of great personal importance to Du Bois, however, it remained unfinished. In the years during and immediately following World War I, W.E.B. Du Bois was deeply involved in organizing and writing a multi-volume work on the role of African Americans in the American Expeditionary Force. He hoped that African-Americans, through their participation in the conflict, would finally achieve their full rights of citizenship in the country they helped to defend. As Du Bois progressed on his work, he expanded his hopes that the participation of the soldiers of the African diaspora in the European conflict would result in the end of colonialism in Africa and better treatment for members of the African diaspora worldwide. The book also influenced Du Bois’ own burgeoning Pan African movement which engaged him simultaneously, organizing two Pan-African Congresses in Paris and Lisbon.


Part of this inspiration came from the book offered here. Alphonse Séché was a well-known Parisian journalist, poet, and playwright. He had commanded a regiment of Senegalese soldiers during the war. The book offered here is a combination memoir, history, and propaganda concerning the place of African soldiers in post-war French colonial life. The book has a preface by Séché’s friend Charles Mangin, the architect of the French Force Noir. The book is not without its issues, including a paternalistic tone which falls flat today, but for Du Bois Séché’s book had one major practical conclusion: “The war has revealed a new factor in French power, The Black Army, whose general valor, as much European, as Colonial, tested now, can no longer be doubted.”  For Du Bois the book was proof and served to countermand the disdain for Black troops exhibited by their white officer corps – something Du Bois saw first-hand and bitterly resented. Vindication of the African American soldier was the motivation behind Du Bois’ work.


For a complete study of Du Bois’s efforts to complete his work see the recent excellent study by Chad L. Williams, The Wounded World W. E. B. Du Bois and the First World War (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023) For Williams’s treatment of Séché’s work see pages 234-235.