War Memories and Today’s Young Adults

[Some of the video clips and images on this page are graphic and may offend some readers.]

Interviewing people about the history and memories of wars, even with those people who are very familiar with me as a friend, proved very difficult. One of the most obvious issues I encountered was finding enough women who would consent to be interviewed. In both the US and Senegal, a higher number of men consented to interviews than women. In asking for interviews, I gave a brief explanation of my assignment to find out what young people in their 20s had learned about several important wars, and, more importantly, where this knowledge came from: school, their families’ oral histories, or movies and popular culture. Despite my insistance that the study was not a test of their intelligence, several women I asked refused, claiming that they did not know anything about history or wars and could not remember what they learned in school. The speed with which several of my potential interviewees refused to participate claiming to not remember what they learned in school suggests that school remains, in both the US and West Africa, the primary source of knowledge about World War II and other 20th century wars. Men, on the other hand, were much more confident in giving interviews, even if they could not answer questions at length.


There were also similarities between how little is taught in African schools about the Algerian War and how minimally the Vietnam War is covered in American schools. Some of my African interviewees admitted to having learnt nothing about the Algerian War, while others claimed to have learned about it, but not about sub-Saharan Africans’ participation on the side of the French. Similarly, some US interviewees learned nothing about the Vietnam War, and barely recall learning about World War II. Others recall learning about the wars in detail. In both West Africa and the US, the range of answers depends to some degree on the individual’s interest in the subject of history, and perhaps even the geographic area of their school, as we will see.


Another striking similarity is that very few people, in the US and West Africa, learned much about the wars from their own families’ oral histories. Several of those interviewed had never met their grandparents who had been alive for or fought in World War II. Even the generation immediately preceding my interviewees, their parents’ generation, were not evident in the passing of war memories from grandparents to my interviewees. The exceptions are Brian, whose father and immediate family members fought in the Vietnam War, and Malick, whose mother did share general knowledge, however nothing specific to her elders’ wartime experience. While most of my interviewees did not meet their grandparents and thus were not given the chance to learn about the wars through oral history, even knowing their grandparents did not necessarily guarantee that oral history would be shared. A university student in Dakar, Cecilia recalls that war was not a subject her family talked about, suggesting that collective war memories are an area of painful and uncomfortable remembrance, and thus a taboo subject.


One difference that arose between the interviews conducted with West Africans and those conducted with African Americans is in the range of answers given when asked about which movies and images recall World War II and other wars for them. In the US, there was a far greater range of movies mentioned. Amongst my West African interviewees, even those from outside of Dakar, Ousmane Sembene’s Camp Thiaroye was the most frequently mentioned movie, often alongside American films and documentaries. It is the only African movie that my interviewees were able to name about World War II, with the exception of one young man from Dakar who had seen Indigénes. 


In both the US and French West Africa, my two points of comparative interviews, it seems that formal schooling remains the dominant and most prolific avenue of education about World War II, the Algerian War, and the Vietnam War. This knowledge is supplemented by more recent dramatic films and images taken from documentaries, while oral histories are very rarely evident in my interviews.


The dearth of oral histories in my interviews may very well be due to the limited sample size of my interviews. More interviews in these areas, as well as more cross-comparative studies of how wars are learned in areas like North Africa would benefit this study. Another interesting area that could be enlightening, but is out of the scope of this particular study, involves interviewing African immigrants to the United Kingdom from Britain’s former colonies. In explaining my interviews, several colleagues at the University of Portsmouth, most of them immigrants from Nigeria, spoke casually at length about their families’ participation in wars on the side of the British Empire. A comparative study could illuminate any differences arising from attitudes surrounding oral war memories between descendants of former British subjects and descendants of former French subjects.



African-Americans on World War II and the Vietnam War



Brian Alexander, 28 years old, English/Art student at California State University, East Bay, Berkeley, CA


Marcelle Levine: Did you learn about World War II and/or the Vietnam War in school?

 Brian Alexander: Yes, I did.


ML: What did you learn specifically about African American participation in these wars?


BA: From what I recall, I learned how minimal their participation was, but I also recall being surprised that African Americans soldiers did participate, that there were regiments fully active in Europe and Italy. I remember being very surprised.

[Interviewer’s note: Growing up in a predominantly white town outside of the greater Berkeley/Oakland area, my high school curriculum spent very little time on World War II, unless a student chose to take a very specialized non-mandatory class on World War II history. Even having taken this class, there was relatively little time spent on African American participation in the war. The majority of time was spent learning decisive battles, country alliances, and politics. Moreover, little attention was paid to the Vietnam War, unless students elected to take a specialized history class.]

ML: And the Vietnam War?


BA: Vietnam War was a little bit more, if I can recall, it was a little bit more… real. It seemed more of a social issue, seen more as having to do with socio-economics than anything else. It seemed a little more tangible in that these soldiers were younger, these soldiers were drafted from poor communities, or economically challenged communities and were sent basically to fight on the front lines.  So I remember Vietnam being a little more rugged or intense to really grasp and understand.

[A well-known argument in American society, and included in California school curriculum, is that surrounding black participation in the Vietnam War. A war that required the government to institute a draft, many draftees were African Americans and whites from poor backgrounds. Especially in the American South, larger numbers of draftees were black than their white counterparts. Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones gives several possible contributing factors, such as the lack of black representation on draft boards, young black mens’ difficulty accessing the educational opportunities to become officers, and possibly even more racist and intentional selection methods by southern draft boards attempting a program of racial control (1999, p. 100). While not everyone in American society, or even the African American community, would agree with the severity of these statements, the draft numbers cannot be disputed. We see from Brian’s emotional discomfort of learning about the disproportionate drafting of young black men that, despite the different experiences of African Americans in different areas of the US and in different social classes, there is the notion of a shared collective grief at the idea that a particular community was unevenly called upon, even forced, to represent and die for the entire nation. There is a sense of distrust of the government among some African Americans when dealing with the Vietnam War, because they may feel that black lives were undervalued compared to those of whites.]

ML: Did your parents or grandparents or another person in your family talk to you about one of these wars?


BA: Yes. A lot of my family on my mother’s side served in Vietnam, so there were constant stories, constant conversations that focused on their experiences, but nothing really… the way they talked about it, they talked about it as if it was a job, as if it was the norm.  My father was actually a little more reclusive, a bit more silent about his experiences. But yes, there were plenty of family members who spoke about these wars.



ML: Were there any stories that really stood out to you, any that they were really fond of telling?


BA: I know that a lot of the stories that I remember, or that I can recall, weren’t really fond, again they really spoke about it like its something you did, something you just kind of fell into. The most light-hearted or fondness I can remember was just talking about meeting up with their regiment or travelling or what they would have to go through to recruit. I specifically remember that my grandfather worked in World War II and he dug trenches. All he ever really talked about was that… it was just something he had to do. My father, on the other hand, was a little more… cryptic, but I know that hearing him speak with other serviceman, that’s where I would get a lot of the jokes, a lot of the playfulness. My father served in the Navy so there was a lot of talk about just going from port to port and also what they would do to recruit, some of the crazy things that they would have to do, some of the crazy standards they would have to reach for recruiting and its something I never realized that my father participated in.


ML: What did they do to recruit?


BA: He would go around, more or less like a Jehovah’s Witness, carrying around brochures recruiting for the Navy and you’d have a quota, I remember he would always talk about the quota that you had register or you had to at least get the information of so many individuals per day. So they would joke about what tactics or what strategies they could use to undercut or sidestep some of the more rigorous requirements. In the South, in the United States, in the South versus states like California, when you’re in the South, like Alabama, Florida, something like that, it’s a little more, obviously, rural, so you’re not dealing with so many people so they would forge names, they would kind of add the same names to the roster. I remember hearing them joke about stuff like that.

[The specific war memories that have been passed down to Brian seem to have been more light-hearted in nature than some of the heavier, potentially painful memories that might also be a part of his family members’ experiences. From my own experience, my grandfathers did not talk about their experiences in World War II. My paternal grandfather only shared one particularly gruesome story with my mother, in order to dissuade her from asking him about the war. She passed this story to me when I showed curiosity in the wars. My grandmother, on the other hand, who lived in Dakar and Bordeaux during the war, refused to talk about the war, but shared a prolonged hatred for Germans, even as late as 50 years after the conclusion of World War II.]

ML: What are the images and films that deal with the wars that have had the biggest impression on you?


BA: World War II… I would have to say some of the biggest films that have had an impression on me are some of the more recognizable ones, ironically both starring Tom Hanks: Saving Private Ryan and…mostly Saving Private Ryan, just because of what you don’t see. Being educated about World War II and blacks and their role in World War II, you’re surprised to learn there were active regiments of black soldiers, but in the films like Saving Private Ryan, the more popular series portraying World War II, Band of Brothers, I can’t help but realize what’s not being seen. We always see soldiers being represented by a certain demographic or a certain ethnic group: white, Caucasian males.  Even though there was very much a policy within the military at that time, there was definitely segregation, we all understand that, its just very rarely explored in films and popular culture. So I would say that would be the biggest impression I have from World War II depictions. Vietnam? I can’t help but always think of Dead Presidents. It really played up again that socio-economic factor of who was actually fighting the war in Vietnam and actually the social ramifications, the social strain that a lot of these soldiers were facing when they came back. It really kind of just put forth the tragic view of the circumstances. I can’t help but think of my own father and some of his closest friends who really came back changed. A lot of…being raised mostly by women, a lot of the women in my life, I’ve always heard them say that a lot of men came back changed and I think Dead Presidents really embellishes that a lot   I just think about soliders being displaced and a system, a socio-economic system, in place that doesn’t take care and doesn’t really benefit the soldiers that had to fight this war. It’s a really tragic view of the toll that kind of experience can have on an individual, if that makes any sense.


[The following official film trailer of Saving Private Ryan gives readers insight to his assertion that African Americans are not well-represented in Hollywood films. It is reminiscent of De Gaulle’s blanchissement towards the end of the war, however it is unlikely that Hollywood producers in the 1990s left out depictions of black soldiers for propaganda purposes.]


[Following is a scene from Dead Presidents that illustrates the contentious attitude some African Americans confronted after returning home from Vietnam, especially from people within their community.]







Deanna Ward, 30 years old, Manager at See’s Candies, Sacramento, CA


Marcelle Levine: Did you learn about World War II and/or the Vietnam War in school, specifically about African American participation in these wars?


Deanna Ward: I didn’t learn about either war in school. It’s just something we didn’t cover…which is sad.


ML: Did your parents or grandparents or another person in your family talk to you about one of these wars?


DW: I knew that my uncle had actually gone to Vietnam from my mother, but she never talked about how his being African American affected him. The stories she remembers him telling were just about the brutality of the war zone in general. Nothing specific that I remember.

[Deanna is one of the few who could say that she had heard specific war memories, however her recollection of “brutality” suggests that it was a subject not often addressed and possibly ignored. In oral histories and collective memory, silences and forced forgetting are just as important and illuminating as the memories people like Deanna could have remembered and shared.]


ML: What are the images and films the deal with the wars that have had the biggest impression on you?


DW: Oooh, I generally hate war movies. So the only one I’ve seen is Red Tails. Good film if you haven’t seen it. It’s about the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II…how they struggled. They had to fight for the right to defend this country and show they were on par with their white counterparts. But really not into war movies.

[Red Tails presents an interesting movie to examine because it also shows similarities with the experiences of African soldiers in Europe during World War II. Deanna has already mentioned that black soldiers had to overcome racism and prove within their own army that they were worthy of fighting for their own country. Additionally, there is a love story, which suggests to audiences that some African Americans found the Europeans they were helping liberate less racist and more accepting than their own countrymen.]





Brandon Cain, 23 years old, student at San Francisco State University/ waiter at Chili’s Grill & Bar, Antioch/San Francisco, CA


Marcelle Levine: Did you learn about World War II and/or the Vietnam War in school, specifically about African American participation in these wars?


Brandon Cain: Yeah, of course.


ML: What did you learn, especially about the involvement of African Americans?


BC: The thing I remember the most was the Tuskegee Airmen.

[Brandon’s specific recollection of learning about the Tuskegee Airmen might stem from regional differences in school curriculums. Brandon attended school in Antioch, where black and Hispanic students vastly outnumber white students. Just north of Antioch, in Sacramento, Deanna attended school in the center of the state capital, which experiences a larger range of ethnicities and backgrounds. Just south of Antioch, I attended a school at which there were only five black students out of 500 students. Both Deanna and I did not learn anything about World War II as specific as who the Tuskegee Airmen were.]

ML: What did you learn about the Airmen?


BC: I wish I could remember.


ML: Did your parents or grandparents or another person in your family talk to you about one of these wars?


BC: Not really. Except my grandmother’s siblings fought in World War II.


ML: What did your grandmother or your family members tell you about the war?


BC: Not much. Barely anything at all.


ML: What are the images and films the deal with the wars that have had the biggest impression on you?


BC: Honestly? Watchmen and Full Metal Jacket, Vietnam War movies.


ML: Did you ever see the movie about the Tuskegee Airmen [Red Tails]?


BC: Yes.





Jerrelle Wilson, 23 years old, student at California State University, Stanislaus, Stockton, CA 

Marcelle Levine: Did you learn about World War II and/or the Vietnam War in school?


Jerrelle Wilson: Yes, definitely in high school.


ML: What did you learn, especially about black participation?


JW: I know a lot of people didn’t support the wars in America. World War II was pushed by the President at the time, even though we truly did not need to intervene for the reasons we did. Vietnam was completely different, the government completely lied to the people about how the war was actually turning out and when the truth came out, people were disgruntled. Pertaining to black participation, I didn’t learn a whole lot. Just that blacks were able to participate in the wars. They were only able to fight in squads made up of blacks. Once they got back to the US, they were, they went back to being treated like people who weren’t fighting for the country.


ML: Did any parents or grandparents or another person in your family talk to you about the wars?


JW: No, no one talked to me about the war. I never even met my grandfathers on my dad’s side. Or my mother’s.


ML: What are the movies dealing with either of the wars that had the biggest impression on you?


JW: My two favourite movies dealing with the wars are Saving Private Ryan and Men of Honour. I really love Men of Honour.



 Francophone West Africans on World War II and the War of Algeria

El Hadji Malick Badji, 25 an, Gestionnaire du site a ENDA, Dakar, de Casamance

Marcelle Levine: Avez-vous étudié la deuxième guerre mondiale et/ou la guerre d’Algérie a l’école?


MB: J’ai étudié la deuxième guerre mondiale  mais un tout petit peu la guerre d’Algérie. J’ai étudié seulement la guerre– deuxième guerre mondiale. Pas la guerre d’Algérie.


ML: Qu’est-ce que vous avez appris?


MB: Tous est-ce que j’ai appris?


ML: Sur la deuxième guerre mondiale, comme le début, les détails.


MB : Sur la guerre…


ML: Oui, en général.


MB : En général. Je sais que c’est en quelque sorte les Allemagnes qui ont lancé la guerre parce qu’ils n’étaient pas satisfaits du– des résultants de première guerre et ils voulaient s’expendre beaucoup plus. Donc c’est pour ça raison tout fait pour déclencher la deuxième guerre, Hitler et autres. Donc il a tout fait pour une deuxième guerre pour qu’ils puissent s’imposer dans le monde. Ça c’est le debut de la guerre.


ML: Et la participation des Africains ?


MB : La participation des Africains, c’est parce que la France a été envahie et elle a sollicité les soutiens des Africains pour que plus faire partir les Allemagnes parce que les Allemagnes avaient envahi la France. Donc il a fallu que les Africains par le biais des tirailleurs sénégalais puissent aller au secours des français pour chasser les Allemagnes de la France. Donc c’est pour ça que les Africains étaient en France pour la deuxième guerre mondiale. C’est en quelque sort la participation de l’Afrique à la deuxième guerre mondiale via les tirailleurs.

[Malick, as well as Yann in the following interview, were able to give by far the most information about what they learned in school. Both Malick and Yann’s accounts, presented to them by African schools, present the Africans coming to the aid of the French in a style that is wholly different than the history taught in French schools.]


ML: Est-ce que vos parents ou grands-parents ou un autre membre de la famille vous ont parlé d’une de ces guerres?


MB: Un peu ma mère mais pas exactement parce que ma mère n’avait pas fait d’études très éloigne. Mais elle m’a un tout petit peu expliqué la deuxième guerre mondiale. Elle m’a expliqué le fait que Hitler voulait tuer tous les juifs parce qu’il disait que cet est une race inférieure et il les mettait dans les camps de concentration pour les exterminer par le gaz et autres. C’est tout ce qu’elle m’a expliqué. Elle m’a aussi expliqué la participation des tirailleurs sénégalais parce que lui, son grand–, son oncle étais aussi un tirailleur sénégalais. Donc elle m’a expliqué son oncle aussi est tirailleurs sénégalais qui étais partis en France pour faire la guerre et après il est retourne à Casamance.

[The information passed from Malick’s mother to Malick seems to have been general knowledge of the war, not personal war memories. In addition to Malick’s inclusion of the plight of the Jews and his familiarity with the brutal history of extermination camps, Beau’s interview will also show traces of how powerful those images were. These were images not called on by any of my American interviewees.]


ML: Quels sont les images et films qui traitent les guerres qui vous ont la plus marquées ?


MB :La deuxième guerre mondiale ? La guerre mondiale ou les guerres en général ?


ML: La deuxième guerre mondiale.


MB : La guerre mondiale… c’est le film d’Ousmane Sembene. Comment il s’appelle ?


ML: Camp Thiaroye ?


MB : Camp Thiaroye ! Voilà ! Le film d’Ousmane Sembene, Camp Thiaroye. Il décrie comment les tirailleurs sénégalais étaient tués après qu’ils demandaient la compensation après avoir aide les Français. Apres, les français leur ont fait un coup tordu et leur ont bombardé tirailleurs. C’est le film qui m’a la plus marquée pour la guerre mondiale.




Yann Kouame, 27 ans, auditeur interne cerifié a Nestle, Dakar, d’Abidjan

Marcelle Levine: Avez-vous étudié la deuxième guerre mondiale et/ou la guerre d’Algérie a l’école?


Yann Kouame: J’ai étudié la guerre mondiale, et la guerre d’Algérie aussi, a l’école, oui.


ML: Qu’est-ce que vous avez appris ?


YK : Ohlala. De la deuxième guerre mondiale ? J’ai appris la construction du mur de Berlin, Hitler, Mousseline, le bloc ouest contre le bloc est. En gros c’était ça, les Etats-Unis ont sauvé le monde. Et comment l’Afrique a sauvé la France.

[Yann’s knowledge of the war seems very thorough and general, however he also learned to some extent that Africans played a large role in the liberation of France, even if this is not the image that the French were intent on proliferating.]


ML: Et la guerre d’Algérie ?


YK : Ohlala. La guerre d’Algérie avec les pieds-noirs. Plus ou moins brève, sans beaucoup de détails j’allais dire.


ML: Et la participation des Africains ?


YK : Des Africains a la guerre mondiale ou la guerre d’Algérie ?


ML: Les deux.


YK : Oh, la guerre d’Algérie, je ne sais pas si les Africains ont participé en masse, mais je sais que la guerre mondiale, les deux guerres mondiale, il y a une participation massive des Africains, notamment des tirailleurs sénégalais qui étaient composés de plusieurs soldats Africains de tout les pays, l’anciens colonies françaises. Mon grand-père a fait la deuxième guerre mondiale.


ML: C’est ma questionne prochaine. Est-ce que vos parents ou grands-parents ou un autre membre de la famille vous ont parlé d’une de ces guerres?


YK : Je n’en ai parlé avec mon grand-père paternel. Je n’ai pas connu, mais mon père a expliqué que mon grand-père avait fait la deuxième guerre mondiale. Paternel. Et mon grand-père maternelle n’a pas fait la guerre, mais a vécu la guerre à partir d’ici, parce qu’il connaît les amis a lui qui ont combattu la guerre.


ML: Ton père, qu’est-ce qu’il vous a dit ?


YK : Mon père m’a raconté que mon grand-père a fait la guerre. Ils ont allé en Europe, ils ont combattu en France, en Italie. C’est seulement des idées vagues. Je n’ai pas des détails, mais  je pourrais dire qu’il m’a expliqué qu’il a combattu.  Sans beaucoup de détails.


ML: Et après la guerre ?


YK : Apre la guerre, il est revenu en Cote d’Ivoire, il a vécu une vie normale.


ML: Quels sont les images et films qui traitent les guerres qui vous ont la plus marquées ?



YK : J’ai d’une image en tête ou de film a parle celle a qui je pense maintenant, la guerre qui ont concerne l’Afrique ou la guerre en général ? Certain film que j’ai vu, il y a longtemps quand j’étais petit qui parle des arabes ou des Français qui partaient combattre en Europe et après qui étaient anciens combattants sont reste en Europe et luttaient pour leur droits. Mais j’ai oublie le titre du film. Mais j’ai vu un film comme ça.


ML: Un film Africain ?


YK : Oui, c’est Africain exactement. En fait, c’est un film Africain qui est tourne entre l’Afrique et l’Europe. J’ai oublie le titre, mais il parle de la vie de soldats Africains qui combattu en Europe, et après la guerre. Mais j’oubliais les détails et le film.


ML:Camp Thiaroye?


YK Voilà, c’est là !



ML: Et la guerre d’Algérie ?


YK : La guerre d’Algérie. Maintenant, j’ai une idée très vague. Je sais que c’était les pied-noirs en Algérie. Les Français   contre l’Algérie presque plus ou moins. Mais, sans les détails particuliers, non. On n’en parle très peu a l’école, connaissances très vagues.



Cecilia Thior, 22 ans, étudiante d’anglais a l’Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, d’une banlieue de Dakar

Marcelle Levine : Avez-vous étudié la deuxième guerre mondiale et/ou la guerre d’Algérie a l’école?


Cecilia Thior : Oui, bien sûr. On l’a étudié en terminal en deux mille dix.


ML : Qu’est ce que vous avez appris ?



CT: Concernent la guerre mondiale…



ML: Notamment la participation des Africains.


CT : La participation des Africains…bon, on n’a pas trop euh.., on ne s’est pas trop appesanti  sur le participation des Africains.  Juste ce que les Allemagnes ont tout le monde fait dans la guerre.  Pas ce que les Africains,leur participation…non, non.


ML : Est-ce que vos parents ou grands-parents ou un autre membre de la famille vous ont parlé d’une de ces guerres?


CT : Non, non, jamais, jamais. Ce n’est pas de coutume d’en parler, juste regardé un film sur ça.


ML : Quels sont les images et films qui traitent les guerres qui vous ont la plus marquées ?


CT : La guerre du Rwanda, Liberia et tout, ils ont fait des films sur ça, oui ça m’a beaucoup marqué.


ML : Les films de la deuxième guerre mondiale ?


CT : Oui oui oui j’en ai regardé des films de la deuxième guerre mondiale mais bon c’étais affreux ce qu’ils faisaient, c’étais un peu douloureux aussi.


ML : Les films qui traitent de la guerre d’Algérie ?


CT : La Guerre d’Algérie…non, non, je n’en ai pas regardé non, juste étudié à l’école.


ML : Avez-vous un titre de film ?


CT : Un titre de film ?


ML : De deuxième guerre mondiale.


CT : Non, non y’en a pas.




El Amine Beau Ndiaye, 25 ans, étudiant des sciences économiques et de gestion, Dakar, de Dakar

Marcelle Levine : Avez-vous étudié la deuxième guerre mondiale et/ou la guerre d’Algérie a l’école?


Beau Ndiaye : Oui, j’ai étudié la deuxième guerre mondiale et la guerre d’Algérie quand j’étais en première et terminal.


ML : Qu’est-ce que vous avez appris ?


BN : Ohlala. J’ai appris que c’est un peu a cause de la deuxième guerre mondiale que le monde est devenu ce qu’il est. C’est-à-dire que la deuxième guerre mondiale a beaucoup changé le monde. Ça a dessiné les puissances qui dominent le monde aujourd’hui.  Les Etats-Unis sont devenu beaucoup plus fort grâce a la deuxième guerre car la guerre ne s’est pas déroulé là-bas. L’Europe a été affaiblie, beaucoup de choses ont changé avec la naissance d’Israël pour les juifs, et aujourd’hui tous ce que nous voyons dans l’histoire,  c’est un peu à cause de le deuxième guerre mondiale.


ML : Qu’est-ce que vous avez appris de la participation des Africains ?


BN : Les Africains, en ce moment, ils ont été colonisé par les puissances européennes, l’Angleterre et la France. Ceux qui en ont beaucoup plus utilisés sont la France. Ils ont une armée qu’ils avaient appelé les tirailleurs sénégalais qui étaient composés de tous les militaires venus de la zone francophone.  Ils ont beaucoup participé à la deuxième guerre, ils ont beaucoup aidé la France.


ML : Est-ce que vos parents ou grands-parents ou un autre membre de la famille vous ont parlé d’une de ces guerres?


BN : J’ai eu un grand-parent qui a été a cette guerre, mais malheureusement, je n’ai pas eu la chance de le connaître. Il est décédé alors que j’étais encore bébé, alors je n’ai pas eu de récit sur la deuxième guerre mondiale à part mes grands-parents qui vivaient a Dakar et qui ont eu quelques problèmes quand la France a bombardé en Afrique.



ML : Quels sont les images et films qui traitent les guerres qui vous ont la plus marquées ?


BN : Les images de guerre qui m’ont plus marquée…Ce sont les images de camps de concentration. Les camps de concentration, c’étaient vraiment les images horribles avec des personnes qui avaient tellement faim, qu’ils avaient la peau sur les os, c’était vraiment bizarre, ils ont montré des fours et tout, c’était horrible.


ML : Vous avez vu cette image à l’école ?


BN : Non, dans le documentaire, mais pas l’école. Je l’ai vu à la télévision. Pour un film, je dirais Pearl Harbour.


ML : Ce sont tous les films et toutes les images ?


BN : J’aime bien Pearl Harbor, ça retrace une partie de la deuxième guerre au moment que les Etats-Unis sont entrés dans la guerre. Comme autre film aussi, je ne sais pas. Peut-être Soldat Ryan…soldier Ryan, I don’t know how do you call it in English. Tom Hanks.


ML : Oh, Saving Private Ryan.


BN : Saving Private Ryan ! J’aime bien trop ce film. C’était naturel et ça montrait la véritable histoire de la deuxième guerre mondiale.


ML: Pas des films Africains?


BN : Pour les films africains, le seul film que j’ai vu sur ça c’est Camp Thiaroye. Camp Thiaroye, c’est l’histoire de tirailleurs sénégalais qui etaient en armée française. Quand ils sont revenu, ils demandaient de l’argent pour faire vivre les familles. Les français avaient refuse, ils ont fait une grève et les français leurs on tiré dessus. C’était une histoire triste.


ML : Avez-vous vu le film a l’école ?


BN : Non, pas forcément. On n’utilisait pas trop les vidéos. Nos profs d’histoire n’utilisaient pas de vidéos, mais je me suis renseigné par le biais de la télévision, notre chaîne nationale met des films sur ça.


[Following is the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan, which, as Beau says, gives a very realistic, natural, and thus believable image of what the worst of the war possibly looked like. It is a bit different from the Saving Private Ryan trailer featured earlier, in that it is a much less romanticized sampling of the film and more realistic to wartime brutality.]


Djibril Drame, 25 ans, photographe et journaliste indépendant, Dakar, de Dakar

Marcelle Levine : Avez-vous étudié la deuxième guerre mondiale et/ou la guerre d’Algérie a l’école?


DD : Oui, j’étais étudié, mais c’étais en première. C’étais en première, quand j’étais un petit jeune a l’école première.


ML : Pas en terminale ?


DD : Terminale ? Non, je ne l’ai pas étudie en terminale. On l’a étudié, mais de façon très différente. Ce n’étais pas comme en première. En première, c’étais juste les leçons, en terminale, on fait la recherche.


ML : OK. En première, qu’est-ce que vous avez appris de la deuxième guerre mondiale, notamment de la participation des Africains ?


DD : Donc la participation des Africains, on a appris que général De Gaulle avait pris les tirailleurs, des jeunes Sénégalais, aussi des jeunes Africains en général, mais on les a nommés les tirailleurs sénégalais mais il n’était pas seulement les Sénégalais. Il n’était pas seulement composé de Sénégalais. Il y avait des autres Africains, comme les Congolais, etc., etc.

 [As we have seen, several West Africans pointed out to me that the tirailleurs sénégalais were not necessarily Senegalese, perhaps a very important piece of information in their curriculum.]

ML : Est-ce que vos parents ou grands-parents ou un autre membre de la famille vous ont parlé d’une de ces guerres?


DD : No, not really…no.


ML : Quels sont les images et films qui traitent les guerres qui vous ont la plus marquées ?


DD : J’ai bien aime Camp Thiaroye avec Ousmane Sembene. Et aussi Indigènes avec Jamel Debbouze. Je l’aime aussi.



Jeffreys-Jones, R. (1999). Peace Now! American Society and the Ending of the Vietnam War. New Haven: Yale University Press.







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