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Évolués in the Belgian Congo studying medicine.

An évolué (literally "evolved" or "developed" person) is a French term used during the colonial era to refer to a native African or Asian who had "evolved" by becoming Europeanised through education or assimilation and had accepted European values and patterns of behavior. It is most commonly used to refer to individuals within the Belgian and French colonial empires. Évolués spoke French, followed European (rather than customary) laws, usually held white-collar jobs (although rarely higher than clerks), and lived primarily in urban areas of the colony.

By colonial empire[edit]

Belgian colonies[edit]

It was also used to describe the growing native middle class in the Belgian Congo (the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) between the end of World War II and the independence of the colony in 1960. Colonial administrators defined an évolué as "a man having broken social ties with his group, [and] having entered another system of motivations, another system of values."[1] The administration viewed education, income, morality and holding a position of responsibility to be important parts of determining whether an individual was an évolué or not.[1] By 1958, colonial officials estimated that there were 175,000 people who could be classed as évolués in the colony.[1] In the final years leading up to independence, évolués played a major role in colonial propaganda as they were felt to exemplify the success of the Belgian civilizing mission begun under King Leopold II.[1] In particular, it was felt that after independence, the assimilation of European values by the évolués meant that Belgian civilian inhabitants of the Congo could continue to live in the Congo as part of a culturally European multiracial state.[1]

In 1954, the colonial government opened the University of Lovanium in Léopoldville in order to provide university education to Congolese évolués.

Many of the leaders of the African nationalist parties in the Belgian Congo were members of the évolué class. In the 1970s, the Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko launched a policy known as Authenticité or Zairianisation, in which he called for Congolese people to renounce all the cultural legacies of the colonial period by dressing and speaking in an "authentic" Congolese manner.

French colonies[edit]

In the French colonial empire, évolués were seen as individuals who were the desired end product of France's assimilation policy. Évolués were treated as an élite and privileged group by the colonial administrators.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gillet & Cornet 2010, p. 19.


  • Gillet, Florence; Cornet, Anne (2010). Congo-Belgique 1955-1965: Entre Propagande et Réalité. Brussels: Renaissance du livre. ISBN 9782507003302. 
  • DeLancey, Mark W., and DeLancey, Mark Dike (2000): Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon (3rd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press.