Much has been written about the first generation of political leaders of French West Africa, their leadership skills, personal resources and networks. Their attachment to, and close links with, France played a crucial role in determining the pattern of decolonisation in the colony. Through a study of their political socialisation, this article seeks to throw light on the experiences and influences that fashioned their thinking about politics and created a common stock of ideas, norms and values. Focusing in particular on their education at the William Ponty School and two key moments that shaped their political thinking, the Popular Front period (1936-38) and the immediate post-war period (1944-47), it will be argued that an appreciation of their process of political socialisation enhances our understanding of their political choices. A final section reflects on the legacy of this process in the postcolonial period.