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the first African to be elected to the French National Assembly
Galaye M'baye Diagne was born in Goree Island, Senegal, on October 13, 1872. His father, Niokhor Diagne, was a cook, and his mother, Gnagna Anthony Preira, a servant. He spent his very early life in a series of mixed race families before finally being adopted by Adolphe Crespin, who gave him the name Blaise as his Christian name once he was baptized. He completed his primary education at the Brother of Ploemel School in Senegal and his secondary education in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Diagne's political career began after he passed the French Customs Service entrance examination in Senegal in 1891. He became a customs agent the following year and subsequently served in Dahomey (now Benin), Dakar (Senegal), the French Congo, the island of Reunion, Madagascar, and French Guyana.
Upon returning to Senegal in 1914, Diagne ran for, and won, a seat in the French National Assembly, beating out Francois Carpot to represent Senegal in the Chamber of Deputies. The first African to serve in that body, he was continuously re-elected and ultimately served until his death in 1934. It was he who, in 1916, he put up the bill proposing full French citizenship for four coastal communities in Senegal known as "The Four Communes" -- Dakar, Gorée, Saint-Louis, and Rufisque; the bill was passed.
In addition to his duties in France, Diagne also served as General Governor of recruitment for troops in French West Africa (1916), Commissioner General of the Ministry of Colonies (1918-1920), Mayor of Dakar (1920-1934), and as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (1931-1934). In 1919, Diagne created the Republican Socialist Party, which subsequently won control of the four local governments in the Four Communes. In the same year he started the newspaper La Democratie, which was later renamed L'Quest Africain Francais. In 1930, he spoke against assimilation and forced labor before the International Labor Organization.
Blaise Diagne died of tuberculosis in Cambo-les-Bains, France, on May 11, 1934. A large boulevard and a high school in Dakar are both named in his honor, as is Senegal's international airport in Ndiass.
This page was last updated on January 26, 2017.