Félix Éboué

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"Eboue" redirects here. For the footballer, see Emmanuel Eboué.
Félix Éboué
Éboué welcomes Charles de Gaulle to Chad.
Éboué shaking hands with Charles de Gaulle in Chad
Personal details
Born (1884-12-26)December 26, 1884
Cayenne, French Guiana
Died March 17, 1944(1944-03-17) (aged 59)
Cairo, Kingdom of Egypt

Félix Adolphe Éboué (26 December 1884 – 17 March 1944) was a Black French (French Guianan-born) colonial administrator and Free French leader. He was the first black French man appointed to high post in the French colonies, when appointed as Governor of Guadeloupe in 1936.

As governor of Chad (part of French Equatorial Africa) during most of World War II, he helped build support for Charles De Gaulle's Free French in 1940, leading to broad electoral support for the Gaullists faction after the war. He supported educated Africans and placed more in the colonial administration, as well as supporting preservation of African culture. In 1944 he was the first black to have his ashes placed at the Pantheon in Paris after his death.

Biography[edit]

Born in Cayenne, French Guiana, the grandson of slaves, Félix was the fourth of a family of five brothers. His father, Yves Urbain Éboué, was an orator, and his mother, Marie Josephine Aurélie Leveillé, was a shop owner born in Roura. She raised her sons in the Guiana Créole tradition.

Éboué won a scholarship to study at secondary school in Bordeaux. Éboué was also a keen footballer, captaining his school team when they travelled to games in both Belgium and England. He graduated in law from the École nationale de la France d'Outre-mer (called École coloniale for short), one of the grandes écoles in Paris.

Career[edit]

Félix Éboué cartoon by Charles Alston, 1943

Éboué served in colonial administration in Oubangui-Chari for twenty years, and then in Martinique. In 1936 he was appointed governor of Guadeloupe, the first man of black African descent to be appointed to such a senior post anywhere in the French colonies.

Two years later, with conflict on the horizon, he was transferred to Chad, arriving in Fort Lamy on 4 January 1939. He was instrumental in developing Chadian support for the Free French in 1940. This ultimately gave Charles de Gaulle's faction control of the rest of French Equatorial Africa.

Efforts at négritude[edit]

As governor of the whole area between 1940-1944, Éboué acted to improve the status of Africans. He classified 200 educated Africans as "notable évolués" and reduced their taxes, as well as placing some Gabonese civil servants into positions of authority. He also took an interest in the careers of individuals who would later become significant in their own rights, including Jean-Hilaire Aubame and Jean Rémy Ayouné.

Although a Francophile who promoted the French language in Africa, Éboué advocated the preservation of traditional African institutions as well. This was included in his circular La nouvelle politique indigène ("New Native Policy"), put out 8 November 1941.

Marriage and family[edit]

He married Eugénie Tell. In 1946 one of their daughters, Ginette, married Léopold Sédar Senghor, the poet and future president of independent Senegal.

Death[edit]

He died in 1944 of a heart attack while in Cairo. His ashes after cremation were placed in the Panthéon in Paris, where he was the first Black French man to be so honoured.

Legacy and honors[edit]

  • In 1961, the Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique Équatoriale et du Cameroun (Central Bank of Equatorial African States and Cameroon) issued a 100-franc banknote featuring his portrait.
  • The French colonies in Africa brought out a joint stamp issue honouring his memory.
  • He was awarded an Officer of the Legion of Honour, decorated in 1941 with the Cross of the Liberation.
  • He was a member of the Council of the Order of the Liberation,
  • Place Félix-Éboué in 12th arrondissement of Paris was named for him, as is Paris Métro station Daumesnil (Paris Métro), which also honours Félix Éboué.
  • A primary school in Le Pecq bears his name and offers bilingual English/French education.
  • A small street near La Défense was named for him.

External links[edit]