|Leopold Sédar Senghor|
Leopold Senghor was born into a wealthy merchant family in 1906 in a small fishing village south of Dakar in present-day Senegal. He was educated in Catholic mission schools. Senghor studied in Paris on a state scholarship and during the 1930s taught in several French lycées. He was granted French citizenship in 1932, and when World War I broke out Senghor enlisted in the French army and was captured by the Germans, spending over one year as a prisoner of war.
Senghor and Aimé Césaire are credited with developing the ideas of négritude, a glorification of African history and culture that was also a revolt against imperial control. Although he presented highly romanticized visions of Africa and its peoples, particularly women, Senghor was also highly assimilated into French culture. Senghor's descriptions of Africa as a region of feeling and Europe as one of reason were criticized by later African nationalists and intellectuals.
Poetry was Senghor's preferred medium of expression. Writing in French, Senghor published a collection of poetry, Chants D'Ombre, dealing with memories and loss of homeland in 1945. Senghor was well known in French intellectual circles, and Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the introduction to his Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et mangache de langue française in 1948. In 1944 Senghor became a professor of African languages at the École Nationale de la France d'Outre-Mer.
Senghor married a Guyanese woman, with whom he had two children, but the marriage ended in divorce. He then married a French woman from Normandy. From 1945 to 1946 Senghor represented Senegal in the French constituent assemblies, and he continued to serve in the French national assembly into the 1950s. With Alioune Diop, another Senegalese intellectual, Senghor established Présence Africaine, a renowned intellectual cultural journal.
When Senegal broke off from the federated Sudanese Republic and became an independent nation in 1960, Senghor was elected its first president. Although he was a practicing Catholic from a small ethnic group, Senghor ruled over a majority Muslim nation that was mostly Wolof. However, Senghor maintained cordial relations with Muslim leaders.
|Leopold Sédar Senghor post stamp|
Senghor served as president until 1980, when he willingly stepped down from office. In retirement he divided his time between Senegal and France. Senghor was honored with many awards, including the Dag Hammarskjold Prize in 1965. He was appointed to the prestigious Institut Française, Académie des Sciences in 1969. In 2001 Senghor died in France.