Senghor’s library returns to Senegal in landmark cultural repatriation

More than 20 years after the death of Léopold Sédar Senghor, Senegal’s first president and a prominent poet, his private library is making a significant journey from France to Dakar, per

Senghor, a key figure in the Negritude movement, left behind a collection of over 800 works, including 343 signed books. 

In April, the library was set for auction in Paris by a beneficiary of Senghor’s sister-in-law’s estate. Fearing the loss of a cultural treasure, the Senegalese government intervened and purchased the entire collection last month. 

This week, the volumes are en route to Senegal, sparking excitement among scholars and historians. The collection reflects Senghor’s intellectual legacy and his connections with global literary figures. Alioune Diaw, a researcher at Cheikh Anta Diop University, emphasised its significance, stating, “This collection provides invaluable insight into Senghor’s thought and 20th-century ideas.” The books document his intellectual journey and the relationships he cultivated throughout his life. reported last month that Senegal successfully negotiated the acquisition of the library of the first president of Senegal and a seminal figure in African literature and politics. The 344 volumes, housed in Senghor’s Normandy residence where he spent his final 20 years, include works inscribed by notable authors such as Martinican poet Aimé Césaire. Senghor, along with Césaire and other intellectuals, was a pioneer of the Négritude movement, which emerged in 1930s Paris to promote black consciousness.

Originally slated for auction in Caen, the collection was to be divided into nearly 200 lots. However, newly elected Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye intervened, halting the auction to negotiate the collection’s purchase in its entirety. The deal was finalised earlier this month, preserving the integrity of a crucial historical archive.

Senegalese Ambassador to France, El Hadji Magatte Seye, emphasised the cultural importance of the collection, stating, “Senghor himself constitutes an inheritance: Senegal’s heritage, Africa’s heritage, the world’s heritage. Saving it from being broken up was essential.” 

The collection will ultimately be housed in a museum dedicated to Senghor’s life in Dakar.

Senghor’s former home in Verson, where he wrote much of his poetry, remains largely closed to the public, though local authorities aim to eventually open it. The acquisition follows a previous intervention by Senegal to reclaim Senghor’s possessions, including personal items and memorabilia.

Historian Céline Labrune-Badiane highlighted the ongoing efforts to consolidate Senghor’s estate, which remains divided between France and Senegal. She hopes to see digital copies of the Normandy archives made available to Senegalese researchers, preserving a significant period of the nation’s history.


  • Featured image: Léopold Sédar Senghor, president of Senegal from 1960 to 1980, pictured in 1983. © Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images/Micheline PELLETIER/Scattered heritage


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