This article explicates the tensions of decolonization during a key moment in Lebanese and international history: the end of World War II in Europe and its immediate aftermath. Based primarily on deep readings of the Lebanese press, French mandatory documents, and Western diplomatic reporting, it unearths how a loose group of Lebanese nationalists formulated an anticivilizational critique of France via an ironic dehumanization of West African imperial troops. Through the tensions of empire and the imagined differences they asserted, these Lebanese nationalists tapped into a repertoire of local, regional, and global prejudices to racialize both mandatory France and its West African foot soldiers, as well as themselves in the process, to the benefit of Lebanese decolonization. Decolonial Lebanon’s parting of the so-called color curtain in May 1945 thus blurred the lines between empire and decolonization and sheds light on a forgotten color line within the global color line.

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