On this day in 1960, poet and politician Leopold Senghor was elected president of Senegal. Senghor became the first president in Senegal history.
Leopold Senghor began his life pursuing a livelihood in priesthood. He soon discovered that this was not for him and turned his focus to teaching. Senghor continued his education in France, studying African culture and teaching methods. In 1935, Senghor became the highest rank of qualified teacher in the French school system, being the first African to do so.
During his time teaching, Senghor was captured and placed in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. In these camps, Leopold wrote poems that have become quite famous. Following the war, Senghor became a member of the French Constituent Assembly. This was the beginning of his very influential political career.
During the late 1950’s, the French West African Colonies demanded their independence. This led to Senegal and French Sudan to gain their independence. Senegal became an independent republic, resulting in Senghor unanimously becoming the country’s first president.
In 1963, Senghor was reelected as president of Senegal after an attempted coup d’état by Prime Minister Mamadou Dia. This attempt failed with the help of Senegalese people rallying behind Senghor. Senghor retired December 31, 1980.
Senghor was one of the originators of the concept of Negritude, commonly referred to in the 1930s and 1940s. The concept is the literary and artistic expression of the black African experience. Senghor became the unofficial spokesman for the concept. Referring back to his time writing poems, Senghor assisted in the establishment of a journal that published the works of African writers and edited an anthology of French-language poetry by black Africans.
After retiring from politics, Senghor retired to France where he was a citizen. During his later years, Leopold Senghor published a memoir and more poetry.