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I am proud to be a Negro

Léopold Sédar Senghor on his 100th birthday


By B.John Zavrel


The president and poet: Léopold Sédar Senghor. Portrait by the European sculptor Arno Breker. The bronzes of this great work are now in Germany and Egypt.

© Photograph www.museum-arno-breker.org / Marco-VG, Bonn



Paris (bpb) "I am proud to be a Negro", said Léopold Sédar Senghor, the late president of Senegal (Africa) and internationally acknowledged black poet. Senghor (October 9, 1906 to December 20, 2001 was a Senegalese poet, author and politician. He served as the first president of Senegal (1960-1980). Senghor also happened to be the first African to sit as a member of l'Académie francaise. He was also the founder of the political party called the Senegalese Democratic Bloc.

In December 2006 we can celebrate the 100th birthday of the late politician and writer. Highly decorated and honored, Senghor will be remembered as a supporter of a better understanding between white and black populations. One of his political goals was to overcome the hate that had developed between the blacks and the whites during the colonalization in Africa.

His poetry was widely acclaimed. In 1978 he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca. His poem A l'appel de la race de Saba, published in 1936, was inspired by the entry of Italian troops in Addis Abeba.


Negritude is a trademark in poetry


Manuscript Poem PRIÉRE AUX MASQUES by Senghor. Written by hand and dedicated to his friend Arno Breker.

© Breker-Archive, Marco-VG, Bonn


Together with others, Senghor created the concept of Négritude, an important philosophical movement that sought to distance African culture from European influences. Already back in 1948, Senghor compiled and edited a volume of francophone poetry called Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache, for which Jean Paul Sartre wrote an introduction, titled "Orphée Noir" (Black Orpheus).

Senghor had a close friendship with the German-French sculptor Arno Breker. The poet Senghor dedicated his poem "The Masque" to the artist Arno Breker. This autograph was handed over by Senghor to the editor Joe F. Bodenstein for a Homage a Arno Breker and in appreciation of his interest in art and culture of the new Africa.


For Breker's epitaph, Senghor had written the following poem:


Quand je serai mort, mes amis, couchez-moi sous Joal-l'Ombreuse.

Sur la colline au bord du Mamanguedy, près l'oreille du sanctuaire des Serpents.

Mais entre le Lion couchez-moi et l'aïeule Tening-Ndyae.

Quand je serai mort mes amis, couchez-moi sous Joal-la-Portugaise.

Des pierres du Fort vous ferez ma tombe, et les canons garderont le silence.

Deux lauriers roses-blanc et rose-embaumeront la Signare.


"I am proud to be a Negro", said Senghor once. In memory of this outstanding personality, now his admirers can also say: "We are proud that Senghor was a Negro."




© PROMETHEUS 112/2006

PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin - News, Politics, Art and Science. Nr. 112, October 2006