Black Woman by Leopold Sedhar Senghor – African Pride And Identity

Black Woman by Leopold Sedhar Senghor

Naked woman, black woman

Clothed with your colour which is life,
with your form which is beauty!

In your shadow I have grown up; the
gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes.

And now, high up on the sun-baked
pass, at the heart of summer, at the heart of noon,
I come upon you, my Promised Land,
And your beauty strikes me to the heart
like the flash of an eagle.

Naked woman, dark woman

Firm-fleshed ripe fruit, sombre raptures
of black wine, mouth making lyrical my mouth
Savannah stretching to clear horizons,
savannah shuddering beneath the East Wind’s
eager caresses

Carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom, muttering
under the Conqueror’s fingers

Your solemn contralto voice is the
spiritual song of the Beloved.

Naked woman, dark woman

Oil that no breath ruffles, calm oil on the
athlete’s flanks, on the flanks of the Princes of Mali
Gazelle limbed in Paradise, pearls are stars on the
night of your skin.

Delights of the mind, the glinting of red
gold against your watered skin

Under the shadow of your hair, my care
is lightened by the neighbouring suns of your eyes.

Naked woman, black woman,
I sing your beauty that passes, the form
that I fix in the Eternal,

Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to
feed the roots of life.

Summary of “Black Woman” by Leopold Sedar Senghor

Famed Senegalese poet and statesman, Leopold Sedar Senghor, wrote the beautiful poem “Black Woman” as a tribute to the African woman’s resplendent beauty and power. The poem utilizes vivid imagery to showcase the strength and grace of black women that transcends time. Let us delve into the mesmerizing world of Senghor’s poetic language, explore his other literary works, and examine his significance in the African cultural sphere.

Unraveling the Essence of “Black Woman”

The poem celebrates the physical beauty, inner strength, and rich culture of black women. It uses symbols and metaphors such as “ripe fruit,” “savannah,” “East Wind’s caresses,” and “tom-tom” to represent various aspects of the African woman — her femininity, resilience, and connection to the native land.

At the same time, the poem captures the black woman’s spiritual and intellectual qualities. Her “solemn contralto voice,” gazelle-like limbs, pearls-like stars on her skin, and the red-gold glint of her skin symbolize her unwavering spirit, wisdom, and self-expression.

The speaker in the poem appreciates the black woman’s soothing influence on his life and takes comfort in her presence. As he recognizes the fleeting nature of life, he strives to immortalize her beauty in his poetry before “jealous fate” reduces her to ashes.

Leopold Sedar Senghor: The Man Behind the Words

Leopold Sedar Senghor (1906-2001) was a brilliant poet, teacher, philosopher, and politician. He served as the first president of Senegal from 1960 to 1980, following the country’s independence from French colonial rule.

Senghor’s advocacy for the appreciation of African cultural heritage and his insistence on the importance of preserving its unique identity earned him respect and admiration worldwide. He was instrumental in developing “Negritude,” a literary and ideological movement centered on celebrating blackness and asserting the value and dignity of African culture.

Other Poems by Senghor

Leopold Sedar Senghor has written a series of poems that resonate with his deep-rooted love for Africa, its people, and their shared destiny. Some of his notable works include:

  1. “Prayer to the Masks”: A poem reflecting his reverence for African ancestral wisdom and belief in ethical responsibility.
  2. “Night in Sine”: A vivid portrayal of his homeland Senegal’s night landscape, silent beauty, and calming tranquility.
  3. “In Memoriam”: A tribute to the fallen African soldiers who fought in World War II, shedding light on their bravery and sacrifices.


In “Black Woman,” Leopold Sedar Senghor masterfully captures the essence of black womanhood and African identity, nurtures a sense of pride among African readers, and introduces the rest of the world to the beauty of African culture. Through his artistry and activism, Senghor continues to cast an illuminating and influential light on Africa’s rich cultural heritage and empowering legacy.

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