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Leopold Sedar Senghor


Léopold Sédar Senghor (9 October 1906 – 20 December 2001) was a Senegalese poet, politician, and cultural theorist who served as the first president of Senegal (1960–1980).

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Created: 2nd Jul 2009
Modified: 2nd Jul 2009
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President of Senegal
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Biographical Information
Leopold Sedar Senghor
(At a Glance)
Date of Birth: Oct/8/1906
Gender: male
Place of Origin: Senegal

While Senghor is most well known as Senegal's skillful president (1960-1981), he is also one of Africa's most skilled and acclaimed poets. His brilliance was recognized early as he completed his Baccalaureat in 1927 and received a scholarship to go to France for further studies. There Senghor gained French citizenship and was the first African to complete the agregation de l'Universite exam, allowing him to teach at both the lycée and university level. Through his diverse publications, such as Shadow Songs (1945), Black Hosts (1946), Songs for Naett (1949), Nocturnes (1961), and Letters in the Season of Hivernage(1972), Senghor built a name for himself as one of Africa's premier French language artisans. As such he became the first African member of the Académie Française, where he helped form a bridge between continental and colonial French. The Académie is widely regarded as the most distinguished French intellectual association, and is charged with compiling a dictionary of acceptable new words and usage. There Senghor helped create a language of expression that at once allows for the propagation of ethnic and national norms and reaches a broad Francophone audience.

Senghor is most famous for his giving the term "negritude" wide application. For Senghor, negritude is one's identification of one's "blackness" without reference to culture, language, or geography. In this way, "negritude" transcends the deep divisions within and between Arabs, Africans, and the African Diaspora by recognizing a common racial thread. Negritude is the emergence of a powerful black presence in the world. It has in many ways become the basis for Afrocentricity.

Senghor's body of work stretches broadly in form and content. Where his early work reflected the carefully chiseled words of a young craftsman, the text that comprise his Lost Poems reflects careful borrowings from Baudelaire and Langston Hughes. He experiments with breaking the mold of form and rhyme while inventing a playful new dance with the language. Senghor's content varied widely from early years of African historical expression and rebellion to displays of sensuality, love, and, eventually, death.

  • Prière aux masques (Circa 1935 - Published in collected works during the 1940s).
  • Chants d'ombre (1945)
  • Hosties noires (1948)
  • Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache (1948)
  • Éthiopiques (1956)
  • Nocturnes (1961)
  • Nation et voie africaine du socialisme (1961)
  • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin et la politique africaine (1962)
  • Lettres de d'hivernage (1973)
  • Élégies majeures (1979)
  • La poésie de l'action : conversation avec Mohamed Aziza (1980)
  • Ce que je crois (1988)

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