Inaugurated in 1994, on the 50th anniversary of the landing in Provence, this monument was inspired by the first “Monument to the Heroes of the Black Army” erected in Reims in 1924. In 1921, the Committee of Heroes of the Black Army was created in Paris. Under the high patronage of the French State, its mission was to erect a monument in both France and Africa to the memory of the native soldiers who died for France during the First World War. The cities of Reims and Bamako were quickly chosen. On 29 October 1922, André Maginot, Minister of War, laid the first stone. It was inaugurated on 13 July 1924 by Edouard Daladier, Minister of the Colonies in the presence of the two African deputies to the French National Assembly: Blaise Diagne, representing Senegal, and Gratien Candace, representing Guadeloupe.
This monumental sculpture was designed to pay homage to the Senegalese riflemen who defended the city during the First World War. It shows a group of African soldiers from the colonial army corps behind a white officer carrying the French flag. A similar monument from the same mould was erected in Bamako on 10 January 1924, then capital of French Sudan, and still stands. The monument in Reims, the work of the sculptor Paul Moreau Vautier, was destroyed by the Germans in 1940. In 2013, a new monument was built in Reims, but with a different base.
During the First World War, nearly 200,000 soldiers from “French West Africa” fought in the French army. 30,000 of them were killed in action. The federation represented 8 French colonies in West Africa between 1895 and 1958. Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Togo and Dahomey (now Benin).
The memorial in Fréjus, which stands on the seafront, was erected by the association of friends of the Musée des Troupes de Marine, with the assistance of the Ministry of Defence and the city of Fréjus. It is dedicated to all African troops that valiantly served under the French flag for more than a century and for whom Fréjus was the largest garrison. We owe this garrison to General Gallieni, who owned a large building in Fréjus named “La Gabelle”.
The statue is in bronze, the work of the sculptor Yvon Guidez, a student of Caesar. This work was cast in Gliwice, Poland. It was inaugurated by François Léotard, at the time Minister of Defence and Mayor of Fréjus.
The epitaph is by Leopold Sedar Senghor (1906 – 2001), Senegalese politician and writer, former President of the Republic of Senegal: “Passersby, they fell fraternally united so that you could stay French”.