David Mandessi Diop, an influential figure of the Négritude literary movement, was born on 9 July 1927 in Bordeaux, France, in a West African family. He spent much of his life in France. Later he moved to West Africa to teach. There he came to know about the reality of Africa under French colonial rule and became familiar with his cultural heritage. He became an ardent supporter of the independence movement.
One of the proponents of Négritude, Aimé Césaire, influenced Diop greatly. Césaire’s works inspired him to write poetry of resistance. Through his poem, Diop recalled the power of self-sufficient Africa and portrayed the oppression of French colonizers on West Africans.
Diop started writing at the age of 15 while he was still in school. His poems regularly appeared in the highly influential journal during the Pan-Africanist movement, Présence Africaine. A few of his poems were published in Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache (1948), an anthology of Francophone poetry, compiled and edited by Léopold Senghor.
In his lifetime, Diop produced only a small collection of poetry entitled Coups de pilon, published in 1956. The collection, along with his unpublished prose, was posthumously translated into English and published as Hammer Blows and Other Writingsin 1973. Though he published only one book, at 33, he became “the voice” of the voiceless during the Négritude movement. Diop died in a plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean off Dakar, Senegal, on 29 August 1960.
Some of his best-known poems include “Africa”, “The Renegade”, and “The Vulture”. In “Africa”, he writes about his unshakable love for the nation, his sense of belonging, the idea of home, identity, and cultural heritage.