I Will Pronounce Your Name

His poetry revealed the contrast between the French way of life being foisted on French African colonies under a purported Policy of Assimilation and the original unblemished values of the Africans. In this light, he was either always too busy praising Negritude or denouncing the French ideal. This poem comes from his publication, Chants d’Ombre (Songs from the Shadow).

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The greatest of the Francophone African poets you will ever read is Leopold Sedar Senghor. He was born in Senegal, in 1906, and schooled both in Dakar and in Paris, France. He was the first West African to graduate from the Sorbonne (a part of the University of Paris, founded in 1253 that contains the faculties of science and literature) and teach in a French university. He is acclaimed as the father of Negritude (from Negro), a philosophy that affirms the black identity and touts the black man’s values as something to celebrate and be proud of. His poetry shows it in abundance.

Senghor was a statesman. He fought with the French in the Second World War and became a prisoner of war in then Nazi Germany. He became the Deputy for Senegal in the French Constituent Assembly, President of the Council of the Republic, and Counselling Minister at the office of the President of the French Community. In 1960, he became the President of the Federal Republic of Mali and later in the same year, the President of an Independent Republic of Senegal. He was president until 1980.

His poetry revealed the contrast between the French way of life being foisted on French African colonies under a purported Policy of Assimilation and the original unblemished values of the Africans. In this light, he was either always too busy praising Negritude or denouncing the French ideal. This poem comes from his publication, Chants d’Ombre (Songs from the Shadow). I hope I got my French right there.

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