Full Summary and Analysis of Leopold Senghor’s “Black Woman”

This is a good full summary of Leopold Sedar Senghor’s “Black Woman .”

About the Poet (Leopold Senghor). Who is Leopold Senghor?

Leopold Senghor was a Francophone Poet, one of the writers at the forefront that championed the Negritude Movement in Africa. He was born in Senegal and is biologically from Senegal. He was born in 1906. Aside from writing poetry and championing the cause of Negritude and fighting against racial discrimination, he was also active in politics. He was also at the forefront of the fight for the independence of Senegal from French rule. This made him become one of the first presidents of Senegal. He died in 2001 after a lifetime of fulfilment as a poet and a scholar.

Background of the Poem

You are to note that the content of this poem cannot fully be understood or grasped without knowing the background. The background here is a great way and process of understanding this full analysis and summary of Leopold Senghor’s “Black Woman.”

The poem is a popular Negritude poem, “Black Woman.” It praises the beauty of the African woman, making the woman a symbol of the blessed African land as well. In most lines of the the poem, the persona praises the beauty and endowment of the African woman termed as the “black woman.”

Senghor wrote this poem at the time racial discrimination and racism was rife in the world. Africa and the people in it were being maltreated and subjugated. The white (Europeans) believed their race was the ultimate race and that other races, most especially, blacks were not up to their level. Thus, this brought about the birth of Negritude movement.

Negritude movement was started by French or Francophone African writers to praise the beauty of the Africa people and the African land. Since other races had chosen to look down on the black race, they chose to praise themselves. Thus, most of the scholars who championed the movement wrote literary works of art, essays or drew art works to showcase and extol the beauty and endowment of Africa. This is what Senghor does in this poem as he praises the beauty of the black woman as person as well as the land symbolized by the “black woman.”

Analysis of Leopold Senghor’s “Black Woman”

“Black Woman” is made up of 4 stanzas and 34 lines. It focuses on the motif of the black woman as there is often the repetition of black woman and a whole lot of descriptions about how beautiful a black woman is. Beginning from the first stanza to the last, the persona is all set out on praising the beauty of the black woman.

In the first stanza there is a description of the woman as naked and black. Then her beauty glows, and the woman is in a lovely interaction with the persona. The persona does not only praise the exceptional beauty of the woman, he also adores her and appreciates her beauty. This woman is presented as beautiful, caring, kind, and melodious when rendering a song. The use of a song is to bring out the performance and artistic aspect of Africans.

In the second stanza, the persona focuses more on the black woman being a symbol of the African continent as he writes about the black woman being subdued by her “conquerors’ fingers”; these conquerors are the colonizers of Africa like the British, French, Portuguese, Italians, and many more. After talking about the black woman as African continent, the persona moves to write about Africa as a paradise still symbolized by the black woman.

The terrain of Africa is presented like the savannah grassland of Africa filled with animals. Then, lastly, the persona focuses on his song rendition of Africa’s beauty. The beauty of the black woman is about the woman and the land as well.

Themes in the Full Summary of Leopold Senghor’s “Black Woman”

There are varying themes evident in the poem.

  1. The Beauty of Black/Correcting Racial Misconception: This is the prominent theme in the poem and it’s about the beauty of the black skin, Africa and the black people. The persona seeks to tackle those who write about the backwardness and ugliness of the black people and black skin. To him, Africans and the black race and black skin are not ugly or backward. They are beautiful beyond measure, and great as well with lots of endowments.
  • The Richness of African Continent: In praising the black woman, the persona is also partially praising the land of Africa. He writes that the land of Africa is blessed and endowed. Using a wide range of descriptions, the persona is able to establish the beauty and the endowment of African land unlike what the White write about Africa.
  • Effects of Colonialism/Colonial Imposed Mentality: It was the colonial masters who came and introduced the idea of the inferiority and ugliness of Africans and the black people to Africans. To enable easier administration and conquering of the land, the black people were meant to feel inferior. This affected them greatly.
  • African Heritage and Identity: The poem praises Africa’s heritage and identity. This identity and heritage makes Africa great and the people as well. The persona and the poet are trying to address the matter that Africa cannot take other people’s heritage and history.

Figures of Speech in the Poem

  1. Metaphor: “The ripped fruit”; “Savannah stretching to clear horizons”; “Gazelle limbed in paradise.”
  2. Simile: “And your beauty strike me to the heart/like the flash of an eagle.”
  3. Apostrphe: “Black Woman” is always addressed as if she is there.

Figures of Sound

  1. Repetition: These words are repeated often in the poem to create emphasis on the theme of the poem: “Naked woman, Black woman”; “Black skin”; “beauty”; “savannah.”
  2. Alliteration: “Paradise, pearls …” (line 24); “Flanks … flanks” (line 23); “Firm fleshed … fruit” (line 12).

Tone/Mood of the Poem

It has a pleasant and happy tone. The persona is in joy as he praises the beauty of the black woman and Africa.


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