|Leopold Sédhar Senghor (1906-2001).
Africa has lost a remarkable person. In spite of the controversial issues raised by his years in power, Leopold Senghor stands out as one of the greatest Africans of the 20th century.
Senghor is most well known as one of Africa's most acclaimed poets. He also served as Senegal's president (1960-1981). He completed a 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.
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 the Magreb, Sub-Saharan 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, and has contributed greatly to the growth of Pan Africanism.
`Négritude...is not the defence of a skin or colour...it is not even attachment to a particular race...although such attachment is quite legitimate. Négritude is the awareness, defence and development of African cultural values. Négritude...as a true myth...is the awareness by a particular social group or people of its own situation in the world...'
Quote from Sédhar Senghor