This dissertation project will examine the history of the African men in French West Africa who were recruited into a quasi-military labor force known as the deuxieme portion, between 1926 and 1946. My research will explore how Africans drew upon different ideas of slavery, freedom, patron-client obligations, and civic duty to interpret or critique this form of forced labor. It will also examine how the collective memory of the historical experiences of these men changed over time, thus considering the ways in which historical memory was shaped in the colonial Soudan and in independent Mali. This project will focus on the social history of the deuxieme portion. I will use oral and archival sources to investigate how workers drew upon previous understandings of unfree labor, social relations, and migration to adapt to their new working environment, to create support networks, and to negotiate their place in a changing socio-political context.