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Tymon Smith

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Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Footnotes: Léopold Sédar Senghor

He lived to the ripe old age of 95, but had he still been alive today would have been the 105th birthday of Léopold Sédar Senghor, poet, cultural theorist and first president of Senegal.

Born in the city of Joal, 100km south of Dakar, Senghor was educated in France and taught there from 1935 to 1945.

It was during this time that he became one of the first proponents, along with other intellectuals from the African diaspora who studied in Paris – such as Aimé Césaire – of the concept of “negritude”, which turned a racist term into a celebration of African culture and became a guiding principle for Senghor’s subsequent political career.

In 1940, while serving in the French army, Senghor was imprisoned by the Nazis. He spent two years in different prison camps, writing poetry, until his release for medical reasons in 1942. He was also involved in the resistance during this time. Upon his return to Senegal, Senghor entered politics and became the first President of the Republic of Senegal on September 5 1960.

He also wrote the country’s national anthem and maintained his office for two decades before resigning in 1980. After becoming the first African to be elected as a member of L’Académie Française in 1983, Senghor lived out the remainder of his life in Verson, France, where he died on December 20 2001.

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