BIOGRAPHY CHEIKH ANTA DIOP – Historian, anthropologist and Senegalese politician of the twentieth century, Cheikh Anta Diop is one of the first to highlight the past and the heritage of pre-colonial Africa.
Short biography of Cheikh Anta Diop – Born in 1923 in Caytou (Senegal), Cheikh Anta Diop began his apprenticeship at the Koranic school before joining the French school of Diourbel. He continued his studies in Dakar where his projects for the recognition of Africa began to germinate. He arrived in Paris in 1946 with the idea of becoming an aeronautical engineer. In 1948, he published his first articles on African languages. In 1951, the young man prepared a thesis in which he demonstrated that black African ethnic groups populated theAncient Egypt. According to him West Africa has inherited certain aspects of the culture and linguistics specific to Egyptian civilization. He then publishes Negro nations and culture in 1954, which caused a stir. He uses the many disciplines (social and scientific) to prove his vision and the importance of the place of Africans in history. He obtained his doctorate in 1960 and returned to his country to teach at the University of Dakar as a lecturer, more precisely at theFrench Institute of Black Africa (IFAN).
Cheikh Anta Diop is behind the creation of the first laboratory of carbon-14 dating (radiocarbon) in Africa, built between 1961 and 1966. He also invested himself politically, in particular for the emancipation of African countries and their independence. Cheikh Anta Diop is in favor of the creation of a federal state in Africa and is a fervent defender of Pan-Africanism with the aim of freeing itself from the European colonial powers. In 1950, he joined the African Democratic Rally. He opposed Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor by founding several political parties: the Bloc des Masses Sénégalaises (BMS) in 1961, the Senegalese National Front in 1963 and the National Democratic Rally in 1976. The latter would only be officially recognized. from 1981. The writer is also the founder of the newspaper Siggi (“Straighten your head” in Wolof) which will later become Taxaw (“To stand up”). Cheikh Anta Diop died in 1986 in Dakar.
Cheikh Anta Diop is one of the most influential African authors of the 20th century. His work emphasizes the cultural and linguistic heritage of the societies ofBlack Africa finding its origins in ancient Egypt. The idea that this latter civilization was mainly composed of people of black color is recurrent in many works by Cheikh Anta Diop, and this from the publication in 1954 of Negro nations and culture. It is based for example on descriptions of Egyptians made by authors of Antiquity such as Herodotus, Strabo or Aristotle, describing them as people with “black skin and frizzy hair”. He performs pigmentation tests on the skin of mummies to come to the conclusion that some have a level of melanin similar to populations of black Africa. Finally, with his colleague Théophile Obenga, he noted certain similarities between African languages such as Wolof with Coptic and ancient Egyptian.
In total, Cheikh Anta Diop has published nearly ten books and books on issues relating to the history of Africa before colonization by Europeans. Apart from Negro nations and culture, we can cite The Cultural Unit of Black Africa (1959), Anteriority of Negro Civilizations: Myth or Historical Truth? (1967) and Civilization or Barbary: anthropology without complacency (nineteen eighty one). Nevertheless, part of the scientific community disagrees with some of the theories developed by Cheikh Anta Diop. Other critics, much more virulent, go so far as to qualify him as an impostor, such as those of the Egyptologist Jean Yoyotte. It was not until the 1974 Cairo conference organized by UNESCO that Cheikh Anta Diop’s arguments were taken seriously.
This book published in 1954 by editions African presence is Cheikh Anta Diop’s first work and the one that had the most impact. Originally this book is a compilation of several subjects which are the subject of a doctoral thesis. This thesis began in 1949 when Cheikh Anta Diop was studying at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Its theme is “The cultural future of African thought”. It is supervised by the philosopher and epistemologist Gaston Bachelard. At the same time, Cheikh Anta Diop decided to deal with a secondary subject on the predynastic Egyptians for his thesis, a subject which was accepted in 1951 and placed under the supervision of the ethnologist Marcel Griaule. The thesis defense, scheduled for 1954, ultimately did not take place since the jury could not be constituted. A book bringing together the work of Cheikh Anta Diop was published the same year under the following name: Negro Nations and Culture: From Egyptian Negro Antiquity to the Cultural Problems of Black Africa Today. Many themes are discussed, such as the black origins of Egyptian civilization or the migratory currents at the origin of the formation of different African ethnic groups. The writer and politician Aimé Césaire, in his Discourse on Colonialism (1955), says of Cheikh Anta Diop’s book that it is “the most daring work that a Negro has written so far and which will undoubtedly count in the awakening of Africa”.
- December 29, 1923: Birth of Cheikh Anta Diop
- Cheikh Anta Diop was born on December 29, 1923 in Senegal in the village of Caytou (or Thieytou), located near the town of Bambey in the Diourbel region. He began his studies at the Koranic school, but quickly joined the French Regional School of Diourbel. He continued his education by going to Dakar and Saint-Louis. The young Cheikh Anta Diop obtained his colonial capacity certificate in 1945 (equivalent to the French baccalaureate), with majors in mathematics and philosophy. He left Senegal in 1946 to continue his studies in Paris, initially with the aim of undertaking a career as a scientist.
- February 7, 1986: Death of Cheikh Anta Diop
- Cheikh Anta Diop died on February 7, 1986 in his native country in Dakar. He leaves behind his wife Louise Marie Maes, doctor of geography, and his four children. His eldest son Cheikh M’Backé Diop, who became a doctor of science, continues to be called upon for commemoration events. He is also co-director of the journal of Egyptology and African Civilizations ANKH alongside Théophile Obenga, the former colleague and friend of Cheikh Anta Diop. A year after the latter’s death in March 1987, the University of Dakar changed its name and became the University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) to pay tribute to him.