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Éboué shaking hands with Charles de Gaulle in Chad
|Born||January 1, 1884|
Cayenne, French Guiana, France
|Died||March 17, 1944 (aged 60)|
|Spouse(s)||Eugenié Tell (1889-1971)|
Adolphe Sylvestre Félix Éboué (1 January 1884 – 17 May 1944) was a French Guianan-born colonial administrator and Free French leader. He was the first black French man appointed to a 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. He was the first black person to have his ashes placed at the Pantheon in Paris after his death in 1944.
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.
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
As governor of the whole area between 1940 and 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.
Personal life and death
In 1922, Éboué was initiated as a freemason at "La France Équinoxiale" lodge in Cayenne. During his life he frequented "Les Disciples de Pythagore" and "Maria Deraisme" lodges. He is considered to be the first freemason to have joined the Resistance. Eugénie his wife was initiated at Droit Humain in Martinique and his daughter Ginette at Grande Loge Féminine de France.
Legacy and honours
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 also brought out a joint stamp issue in 1945 honouring his memory.
Within France, a square, Place Félix-Éboué, in 12th arrondissement of Paris is named for him, as is the adjacent Paris Métro station Daumesnil 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.
The main airport of Cayenne, French Guyana, which was previously named after the comte de Rochambeau, was named in his honor in 2012.
- Dictionnaire universelle de la Franc-Maçonnerie, page 253 (Marc de Jode, Monique Cara and Jean-Marc Cara, ed. Larousse , 2011)
- Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie, page 380 (Daniel Ligou, Presses Universitaires de France, 2006)
- Joseph Badila, La franc-maçonnerie en Afrique noire: un si long chemin vers la liberté, l'égalité, la fraternité, Detrad, 2004, p. 142)