Other Description of Work:
Cheikh Anta Diop, a modern champion of African identity, was born in Diourbel,
Senegal on December 29, 1923. At the age of twenty-three, he journeyed to Paris,
France to continue advanced studies in physics. Within a very short time,
however, he was drawn deeper and deeper into studies relating to the African
origins of humanity and civilization. Becoming more and more active in the
African student movements then demanding the independence of French colonial
possessions, he became convinced that only by reexamining and restoring Africa's
distorted, maligned and obscured place in world history could the physical and
psychological shackles of colonialism be lifted from our Motherland and from
African people dispersed globally. His initial doctoral dissertation submitted
at the University of Paris, Sorbonne in 1951, based on the premise that Egypt of
the pharaohs was an African civilization--was rejected. Regardless, this
dissertation was published by Presence Africaine under the title Nations Negres
et Culture in 1955 and won him international acclaim. Two additional attempts to
have his doctorate granted were turned back until 1960 when he entered his
defense session with an array of sociologists, anthropologists and historians
and successfully carried his argument. After nearly a decade of titanic and
herculean effort, Diop had finally won his Docteur es Lettres! In that same
year, 1960, were published two of his other works--the Cultural Unity of Black
Africa and and Precolonial Black Africa.
his student days, Cheikh Anta Diop was an avid political activist. From 1950 to
1953 he was the Secretary-General of the Rassemblement Democratique Africain
(RDA) and helped establish the first Pan-African Student Congress in Paris in
1951. He also participated in the First World Congress of Black Writers and
Artists held in Paris in 1956 and the second such Congress held in Rome in 1959.
Upon returning to Senegal in 1960, Dr. Diop continued his research and
established a radiocarbon laboratory in Dakar. In 1966, the First World Black
Festival of Arts and Culture held in Dakar, Senegal honored Dr. Diop and Dr.
W.E.B. DuBois as the scholars who exerted the greatest influence on African
thought in twentieth century. In 1974, a milestone occurred in the
English-speaking world when the African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality
was finally published. It was also in 1974 that Diop and Theophile Obenga
collectively and soundly reaffirmed the African origin of pharaonic Egyptian
civilization at a UNESCO sponsored symposium in Cairo, Egypt. In 1981, Diop's
last major work, Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology was
Dr. Diop was the Director of Radiocarbon Laboratory at the Fundamental
Institute of Black Africa (IFAN) at the University of Dakar. He sat on numerous
international scientific committees and achieved recognition as one of the
leading historians, Egyptologists, linguists and anthropologists in the world.
He traveled widely, lectured incessantly and was cited and quoted voluminously.
He was regarded by many as the modern `pharoah' of African studies. Cheikh Anta
Diop died quietly in sleep in Dakar, Senegal on February 7, 1986.