American missions in wartime French West Africa: Travails of the sudan interior mission in Niger

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This chapter explores the implications of World War II for the perception of American missionaries in French colonial Africa both during and after the war. The Sudan Interior Mission (SIM), an interdenominational “faith mission” staffed by British, American, Canadian, and New Zealand citizens, found its work in Niger caught up on the complex dynamics of Vichy Africa. Tagged as “British” by the French colonial administration of Niger, the mission staff was highly suspect in the context of tensions with British Nigeria to the south and territories sympathetic to de Gaulle to the north and east; however, in many respects the religious orientation of the mission in American evangelical fundamentalism meant that in cultural style and philosophy it was rather American. Misunderstandings between the mission and the French administration abounded, leading to the eventual detention of the head of the mission, David Osborne. In the wake of the war the French tagged the mission as “American” and hoped to channel its unruly impulses in directions thought more suitable to French interests in the knowledge that the United States had become a wealthy global force that could no longer be ignored. In 1940, plans for expanding the mission's stations were afoot, despite the war in Europe. The attitude of the colonial government in Niger appeared to be receptive: The Governor of Niger Colony was passing through Maradi and Mr. and Mrs. Osborne were able to have an informal interview with him. The Governor assured Mr. Osborne that the SIM could purchase a certain plot and house in Maradi, put up temporary buildings in Jiratawa, and that he was also willing to let us occupy Diapaga. There is something surreal in the cheerful reportage of the mission's publications of the early war period, suggesting that the mission staff of North Americans and New Zealanders was more than a little out of synch with the fears and preoccupations of most Europeans and certainly of the French.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAfrica and World War II
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781107282018
ISBN (Print)9781107053205
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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