Negritude poet David Mandessi Diop was born in Bordeaux to a Senegalese father and a Cameroonian mother. He lived much of his life in France but also spent significant time in West Africa, where he was a strong supporter of the movement for independence from French colonial rule. He died at the age of 33 in an airplane crash on his way home to France from Dakar.
Diop was educated at the Lycée Marcelin Berthelot in Paris. Influenced by the work of Martinique poet Aimé Césaire, Diop composed poems of political resistance, recalling the power of a free Africa and vividly portraying the oppression of French colonialist rule. Rejecting assimilation into European culture and rhythms, Diop frequently used colloquial and spoken phrasings patterned with rhythmic repetition.
At age 15, Diop began publishing his poems regularly in the literary journal Présence Africaine, and five of his poems were featured in Léopold Senghor’s Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie négre et malgache (1948). He published only one short book of poems during his lifetime, Coups de pilon (Pounding) (1956). Hammer Blows and Other Writings (1973, translated and edited by Simon Mpondo and Frank Jones), a posthumous translation, was expanded to include a selection of the poet’s previously uncollected prose.
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