Léopold Sédar Senghor was a Senegalese poet, politician, and cultural theorist who served as the first president of Senegal (19601980).
Léopold Sédar Senghor, born in the small coastal city of Joal, some one hundred kilometres south of Dakar. belonged to the bourgeois tribe Serer, a minority group in Senegal, inherited from the Serers, his two last names: his father's name, Senghor (derived from the Portuguese for Lord, Senhor) and the Serere's name Sedar (meaning "One that shall not be humiliated").
Following his primary studies Senghor at the Ngasobil boarding school of the Fathers of the Holy Spirit, Senghor entered a seminary in Dakar where he was told the religious life was not for him,. His later studies he distinguished himself in French, Latin, Greek and Algebra. With his Baccalaureate completed, he was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies in France.
In 1928 Senghor began his "sixteen years of wandering". with France as the starting point.
He graduated from the University of Paris, where he received the Agrégation in French Grammar. Subsequently, he was designated professor at the Universities of Tours and Paris, during the period 1935-1945.
Today, Senghor is regarded by many as one of the most important African intellectuals of the 20th Century.
It was at this time that Senghor, along with other intellectuals of the African diaspora ( Aimé Césaire and Léon Damas ) who had come to study in the colonial capital, coined the term, and conceived the notion of "Négritude," which was in effect a response to the racism still prevalent in France, turning the racial slur "nègre" into a positively connoted celebration of African culture and character. The idea of Négritude would inform not only Senghor's cultural criticism and literary work, but also became a guiding principle for his political thought in his career as a statesman. Négritude was a significant and important intellectual movement that sought to assert and to valorize what they believed to be distinctive African characteristics, values, and aesthetics; a reaction against the too strong dominance of French culture in the colonies, and against the perception that Africa did not have culture developed enough to stand alongside that of Europe. It chose to emphasize the importance of dialogue and exchange between different cultures (e.g., European, African, Arab, etc.)
Politically, Mr. Leopolod Senghor was also the founder of the political party called the Senegalese Democratic Bloc borne of Senegal's independence in 1960, a supporter of federalism for newly independent African states, a type of "French Commonwealth". He was elected as the first President of the Republic of Senegal, elected on 5 September 1960. He is the author of the Senegalese national anthem, Le Lion rouge. He resigned his position before the end of his fifth term in December 1980.
He supported the creation of the la Francophonie and was elected vice-president of the High Council of the Francophonie. In 1982, he was one of the founders of the Association France and developing countries whose objectives were to bring attention to the problems of developing countries.