During the second colonial phase around 1830, France took a different approach. Rather than conquering by force as it did with Algeria, it changed posture and introduced the "assimilation theory"20 in which France would train, educate African men (les évolué) to carry out the mission of diffusing ideas of civilization. In the second half of the 19th century, France created the four communes of Senegal – Dakar, Saint Louis, Gorée, and Rufisque where people were granted the same rights as French citizens.
Africans from the four communes who were able to pursue higher education and were willing to renounce their legal protection could ‘rise’ to be termed Evolue (evolved) and were nominally granted full citizenship including the right to vote. Nevertheless, despite this legal framework, evolué still faced substantial discrimination in Africa as well as in the metropolis.21
Thus during the first half of the 1800s, the economic importance of these settlements as key trading points led to the creation of general councils. By 1880, the four communes were able to send their elected representatives to the French General Assembly. Though, their representatives were often colonists, European or métis.22 The policy of assimilation became prevalent in the four communes. Africans could be evolved into “Black Frenchmen.” In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a hallmark of the French colonial project was called civilizing mission (mission civilisatrice) or known as a policy of cultural assimilation. For example, during the nineteenth century, black Africans in four communes in Senegal were granted French citizenship along with the right to elect deputies to the Chamber of Deputies. The conditions that a native had to meet to be granted French citizenship included earning a decent living, was to display good moral standards, speak and write French.23
The population in these regions became known as “Les originaires” meaning they were the first to have a French citizen status – not yet promoted in other settlements. Les originaires ought to be fluent in French to advance in social life, politics, or work in administrative institutions. However, prejudice was very common when it came to career ambition and advancement. It was not until 1907 that the first originaires of African background Galandou Diouf was elected as a legislator in the General Council in the commune of Rufisque. In 1914, the first African man Blaise Diagne won a seat in the French National Assembly representing the communes of Senegal. He was then succeeded by Diouf.24