Rabat, Morocco, 5-9 December 2011   

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Home page » Public Lectures and Scientific Activities » Statutory Public Lectures » Leopold Sedar Senghor Public Lecture

Leopold Sedar Senghor Public Lecture

Léopold Sédar Senghor was born on the 9 Octobre 1906 on the coast not far from the city of Dakar. He was the son of Gnylane Bakhoum and Basile Diogoye Senghor, his father being a well-to-do trader and a dignitary within the Christian community of his village in Joal. He studied at the Catholic mission school of Ngasobil,, Libermann high school as well as at Dakar Secondary School. He then carried on at Lycée Louis le Grand de Paris, France, where he met Aimé Césaire, and finally went on to attend Sorbonne University. After his “agregation” in Grammar [1] in 1935, he embarked on a teaching career which was abruptly interrupted by the war. Léopold Sédar Senghor joined the army in 1939 however was held prisoner in 1940 before being freed two years later due to health reasons. His poetry, which was his essential passion, spoke in great detail about his experiences and encounters. As a result, he published several collections of poems amongst which were: Chants d’ombre (1945); Hosties noires (1948); Anthologie de la Nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française followed by Orphée noire by Jean Paul Sartre (1948); Chants pour Naett (1949).

Although poetry was his true passion, historical circumstances compelled Léopold Sédar Senghor to become a politician and during that period, he succeeded in becoming a member of the Consultative Parliament for Europe’s Council, State Secretary in Edgare Faure’s firm, Mayor of the city of Thiés Dakar, Minister and Advisor to the French Fourth Republic. On 5 September 1961, Senghor became the first President of the Republic of Senegal. He occupied this position until 31 December 1980 from then he voluntarily decided to step down from the presidency.

Both his poetic and political careers was greatly influenced by the Negritude as in “The way in which to express oneself as a Negro, the Negro’s character, the Negro world, the Negro civilization”. This was well demonstrated by the organization of the first World Black Art Festival in Dakar in 1966 which he had spearheaded. Nonetheless, his strong stance for the defense of Black people’s rights and the value of their civilization had always been part and parcel of his principle for openness and humanism.

Cultural preservation and openness constitute the most important principle for which Senghor’s thinking was based upon reaching out toward the Universe. Rather what was ironic was the fact that his thinking also accommodated his fight in favor of Francophony and the French language. His becoming a member of the French Academy in 1983 was a big step toward the dialogue of cultures for which he was its apostle. This is well identified in several of his publications: Liberté (1 to 5); La poésie de l’action; Ce que je crois. Léopold Sédar Senghor died in France on 20 December 2001 and was buried in Dakar with the full honors his stature so well deserved.

The Leopold Sedar Senghor public lecture has been successively delivered by Prof. Eboussi Boulaga (Dakar, 1998), Prof. Fatou Sow (Kampala, 2002), Prof. Adame Ba Konaré (Maputo, 2005) and Prof. Ali El Kenz (Yaoundé, 2008). This year, it will be delivered by Prof. Souleymane Bachir Diagne.