Senghor, Léopold Sédar

Senghor, Léopold Sédar

(lāôpôld` sādär` säNgôr`), 1906–2001, African statesman and poet; president (1960–80) of the Republic of Senegal, b. Joal. The son of a prosperous landowner, Senghor was extraordinarily gifted in literature and won a scholarship to study at the Sorbonne in Paris (grad. 1935). There he met fellow writers such as Aimé CésaireCésaire, Aimé
(Aimé Fernand Césaire) , 1913–2008, West Indian poet and essayist who wrote in French. After studying in Paris he became concerned with the plight of blacks in what he considered a decadent Western society.
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 and Léon DamasDamas, Léon
(Léon-Gentran Damas), 1912–78, French poet, b. French Guiana. With Léopold Senghor and Aimé Césaire he was one of the first adherents of négritude, a cultural movement emphasizing black consciousness.
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, with whom he formulated the concept of négritudenégritude
, a literary movement on the part of French-speaking African and Caribbean writers who lived in Paris during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Adherents of négritude
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, which asserted the importance of their African heritage (see also African literatureAfrican literature,
literary works of the African continent. African literature consists of a body of work in different languages and various genres, ranging from oral literature to literature written in colonial languages (French, Portuguese, and English).
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). He became a French teacher, served in an all-African unit of the French army in World War II, and after the war represented Senegal (1945–58) in the French legislature. He then held a series of offices in Senegal and became one of the founders of the African Regroupement party. Senghor was president of the legislative assembly in the Mali Federation (1959) and, when Senegal withdrew from the federation (1960), he became president of the newly formed Republic of Senegal.

Senghor continued to work for African unity, and, in 1974, Senegal joined six other nations in the West African Economic Community. He was reelected president in 1963, 1968, and 1973, remaining in office until his retirement in 1980. He lived in Normandy for most of the rest of his life. A distinguished intellectual and champion of African culture, he wrote numerous volumes of poetry and essays in French, including Chants d'Ombre (1945), written while he was interned in a Nazi prison camp; Hosties noires (1948); Chants pour Naëtt (1949); and Éthiopiques (1956). At the head of his many poems, Senghor indicates the musical instruments that should accompany them, illustrating his belief that the poems should become songs to be complete. Among his works in English translation are On African Socialism (1964) and Selected Poems (1964). In 1984 he became the first black member of the French Academy.


See biographies by I. L. Markovitz (1969), J. L. Hymans (1972), J. S. Spleth (1985), and J. G. Vaillant (1990); studies by M. B. Melady (1971), S. W. Bâ (1973), S. O. Mezu (1973), J. S. Spleth, ed. (1993), and W. Kluback (1997).

Senghor, Léopold Sédar


Born Oct. 9, 1906, in Joal, Senegal. Senegalese state figure, philosopher, and poet.

Senghor graduated from the faculty of letters of the Sorbonne in 1933, and between 1935 and 1958 he taught at various educational institutions in France, except during the period 1939 to 1942. From 1939 to 1940 he served in the French Army, and from 1940 to 1942 he was a prisoner of the Germans; he subsequently took part in the French Resistance movement.

From 1936 to 1948, Senghor was a member of the French Socialist Party. In 1948 he founded the party known as the Senegalese Democratic Bloc; in 1959 the party was reorganized as the Senegalese Progressive Union and in 1976 as the Socialist Party of Senegal. Senghor became its secretary-general in 1959. Between 1945 and 1960 he held a number of ministerial posts in France. From Apr. 4, 1959, through Aug. 20, 1960, he served as president of the Federal Assembly of the Mali Federation. In September 1960, he was elected president of the Republic of Senegal, and from December 1962 to February 1970 he was both president of the country and head of the government. Senghor is one of the originators of the concept of negritude, which asserts the uniqueness of Africa’s historical destiny and the uniqueness of the psychological makeup of the African personality.

Senghor’s participation in the Resistance movement is reflected in his poetic cycle Hosties Noires (1948). Senghor is also the author of the verse collections Chants d’ombre (1945) and Chants pour Naett (1949), the dramatic poem Chaka (1949), which deals with the heroic past of the African peoples, and other works.

Senghor holds honorary doctorates from a number of univer sities, including those of Paris and Strasbourg. He is a foreign member of the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences (1969).


Nation et voie africaine du socialisme. Paris, 1961.
On African Socialism. New York-London [1964].
La Négritude est un humanisme du XX siècle. Dakar, 1971.
Poèmes. Paris, 1974.
In Russian translation:
Pesn’nochi i solntsa. [Afterword by M. Malyshev.] Moscow, 1965.
Izbrannaia lirika. [Foreword by M. Vaksmakher.] Moscow, 1969.


Potekhina, G. I. Ocherki sovremennoi literatury Zapadnoi Afriki. Moscow, 1968.
Sovremennye literatury Afriki. Moscow, 1973–74.
Guibert, A. L. S. Senghor. (Poétes d’aujourd’hui.) Paris, 1962.
Leusse, H. de. L. S. Senghor, I’Africain. [Paris, 1967.]
Mezu, S. O. L. S. Senghor. Paris [1968]. (Contains a bibliography on pp. 207–29).