Biographyof Léopold Senghor,Origin,Education,Achievements,Policies

Biographyof Léopold Senghor,Origin,Education,Achievements,Policies


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of Léopold Sédar Senghor Regarded by many as one of the most important African intellectuals
of the 20th century, Léopold Sédar Senghor was a Senegalese poet, politician and cultural
theorist who for two decades, served as the President of Senegal.Born on the 9th of October
1906 in the city of Joal, some one hundred and ten kilometers south of Dakar, Senegal’s
capital city, to a wealthy polygamous family, Léopold was one of two sons of his mother
who was the third wife of his father. Senghor began his studies in Senegal in the Ngasobil
boarding school of the Fathers of the Holy Spirit at the age of eight. In 1922 he entered
a seminary in Dakar, but later abandoned the seminary and priesthood pursuits for French
literature in a secular institution, earning his Baccalaureate and a scholarship to continue
his studies in France.Senghor sailed from Senegal to France in 1928, starting his post-secondary
studies at the Sorbonne University. He later quit and went on to the Lycée Louis-le-Grand
for prep-studies for entrance to the École Normale Supérieure, a high school. He eventually
graduated at the University of Paris, earning his Agrégation in French Grammar, the first
African to do so. He was subsequently designated professor at the universities of Tours and
Paris,where he taught from 1935 to 1945.While in Paris and motivated by their dissatisfaction,
disgust, and personal conflict over the state of the Afro-French experience in France, Senghor
together with other intellectuals Aimé Césaire of Martinique and Léon Damas of French Guiana,
started Négritude, a cultural and literary movement that aimed at cultivating “black consciousness”.
This idea of négritude informed Senghor’s cultural criticism and literary work, as well
as became a guiding principle for his political thought in his career as a statesman.In 1939,
Senghor was enrolled as a French army enlisted man (2e Classe) with the rank of private within
the 59th Colonial Infantry division during World War II.In 1940, during the German invasion
of France, he was captured and held in different Nazi concentration camps for two years. Most
of his poems were written during the period of his capture. He was eventually released
in 1942 for medical reasons, resuming his teaching career while remaining involved in
the resistance during the Nazi occupation of France until the Allied liberation in 1944.Once
the war was over,Senghor was selected as Dean of the Linguistics Department with the Écolenationale
de la France d’Outre-Mer, a position he would hold until Senegal’s independence in 1960.
While on a research trip for his poetry, he met Lamine Guèye the local socialist leader,
who suggested that Senghor run for election as a member of the French National Assembly,
and he accepted and became a deputy. In 1947, Senghor separated from Guèye and the African
Division of the French Section of the Workers International (SFIO),which had given enormous
financial support to the social movement. Alongside Mamadou Dia, he founded the Senegalese
Democratic Bloc in 1948 and they won the legislative elections of 1951.Senghor was re-elected deputy
in 1951 as an independent overseas member, and was appointed State Secretary to the Council’s
president in Edgar Faure’s government from the 1st of March 1955 to the 1st of February
1956. He became mayor of the city of Thiès, Senegal in November 1956 and then advisory
minister to Michel Debré’s the first Prime Minister of the French Fifth Republic, from
the 23rd of July, 1959 to the 19th of May, 1961. He was also a member of the commission
responsible for drafting the Fifth Republic’s Constitution, General Councilor for Senegal,
member of the Grand Council of French West Africa and member for the Parliamentary Assembly
of the European Council. Senghor became the first President of the Republic of Senegal,
elected on the 5th of September 1960, with Mamadou Dia as Prime Minister. He also authored
the Senegalese national anthem and in 1964, published the first volume of a series of
five, titled Liberté. The book contains a variety of speeches, essays and prefaces.
Other published books of his include the Chants d’ombre (Songs of Shadow, 1945), Hosties
noires (Black Offerings, 1948), Éthiopiques (1956), Nocturnes (1961), and Élégies majeures(Major
Elegies, 1979). Some of his poems were also featured in the 1990 publication, Oeuvre poétique.
Under Senghor’s presidency, Senegal adopted a multi-party system limited to three: socialist,communist
and liberal. His tenure is also credited for establishing a performing education system.On
the 22nd of March 1967, Senghor survived an assassination attempt. The suspect, Moustapha
Lô, pointed his pistol towards the President, but the gun did not fire. Lô was sentenced
to death for treason and executed on the 15th of June 1967. Senghor resigned his position
in December 1980 before the end of his fifth term and was succeeded by Abdou Diouf. Senghor
was elected a member of the French Academy on 2nd of June 1983, at the 16th seat where
he succeeded Antoine de Lévis Mirepoix. He was the first African to sit at the Academy.
Senghor received numerous honours in the course of his life. He was made Grand-Croix of the
Legion of Honor, Grand-Croix of the National Order of Merit, Commander of Arts and Letters.
He also received academic palms and the Grand-Croix of the Order of the lion of Senegal. His exploits
in the Second World War earned him the medal of Reconnaissance Franco-alliée 1939–1945
and the Combatant Cross 1939–1945. He was also named honorary doctorof thirty-seven
universities.Senghor’s was first married to Ginette Éboué, daughter of Félix Éboué
on the 9th of September 1946, and they gave birth to two sons: Francis in 1947 and Guy
in 1948. They however divorced in 1955, and Senghor remarried Colette Hubert a French
woman, and she became Senegal’s First Lady upon independence in 1960. Senghor had three
sons from his two marriages.The last years of his life, Senghor spent with his wife in
Verson, near the city of Caen in Normandy,where he died on the 20th of December, 2001.What
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