Black Woman by Leopold Sedar Senghor Summary & Analysis
African Poetry: Black Woman by Leopold Sedar Senghor Summary, Setting, Author's Background, Themes, Language and Style / Poetic Devices for JAMB, WAEC and NECO Literature Students 2021 - 2025 Syllabus.

It is no longer news that the above selected poetry is among the selected texts for literature students in the WAEC, NECO and JAMB Syllabus for 2021 - 2025.

Well we have decided to help students by providing some insights such as background, poetic devices, themes, structure and about the poet summary to aid them understand and prepare ahead of their examination.


Leopold Senghor was born in Senegal in 1906, he was Educated in Dakar, Senegal, and ' Paris, France. Leopold was the first West African to graduate from the Sorbonne (a part of the University of Paris). He was regarded as the Father of negritude (negro). it is based on the philosophy that promotes the consciousness and pride in the African heritage, it cherishes the state of being a black man and his cultural values.

As a Catholic, he wanted to be a priest, but later got involved in the cultural and political activities of his country. During the second world war, he fought on the side of the French and was taken as a prisoner of war in then Nazi Germany. He rose to the position of deputy of Senegal in the French constituent Assembly. In 1960, he became the first president of an independent Republic of Senegal and He retired from active politics in 1980.


Senghor's 'Black Woman' is the first-ever African poem that is dedicated and devoted to appreciating the beauty of African women. The poem was originally written in French as "femme noir", and later translated to English. "Black Woman" is a revolutionary poem published in 1936, the time at which many people are not ready for the change in the narrative of the perfect definition of beauty. Senghor is a leading figure of the Negritude movement, which originated in France and set out to celebrate African
identity and culture. In the poem, "Black Woman" Senghor personifies Africa as a beautiful woman, who is sometimes a maternal figure and sometimes a lover. The poem's ideological content and being the first-ever creative work that eulogized African women outstands it. The poem "Black woman" is Senghor's most cited poem to date, largely because it is the first time a black woman is eulogized.


The setting of the poem is Africa. The poem is set in the 19205 and 19305 when no one could think of a black woman when matters concerning beauty and charms are been raised or discussed. Senghor creatively employs all the features that are then used to paint her ugliness and nastiness to give poa positive valuation to African women.

He deploys the imagery of nature such as animal, "the bush(savannah)", "ripe fruit", "east wind" "red-gold", "sun—baked", etc to restore admiration for the image of the black woman.


The poet persona in "Black Woman" praises the African black woman as a person and symbol of the richness of African culture. It elevates the beauty, purity, strategic location, cultural heritage, and personality of Africa, which has been personified as a woman that offers enormous comfort to the persona.

When the poet persona says: "in your shadow have grown up", it creates the image of a mother who dutifully nurtures a child from infant to adulthood, " the gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes" depict the soothing comfort of a mother's caress.

In the poem, the black woman is seen as a mother, daughter, sister whose beauty is natural and perfect.

In the last stanza, line 30—33, 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.",

Here, the poet says as one boasts of his possessions, so should one also be aware of attracting envious eyes, even from 'fate' and as the persona is well aware of this fact, he ends his praise by hinting at the impending demise of the ”woman" by "her" detractor, 'fate'. This impending destruction is what propels the urgency and necessity needed by the persona to sing the "woman's" praises while she still can appreciate them. The poet also uses the poem to, stress the need to accord the black woman her rightful place in the scheme of things in African society.


African Beauty

The poem gives prominence to the admiration and glorification of the beauty of the black woman; hence the whole of the poem is devoted to the beauty of the black woman. The poet admires the beautiful smooth skin of the African woman, which strikes his heart" like the lighting of the eagle" he appreciates the powerful black presence of the natural black woman around him right from his childhood. The African woman's body is then compared to the of a ripened fruit, and whose resonant contralto voice is regarded as the spiritual anthem of the nation. The poet describes the African woman as elegant, graceful, and pure in all her physical attributes. This, the poet achieved by evoking elements of beauty in the poem, such as: " sun-baked pass", the "heart of summer" "the heart of noon", " firm-fleshed ripe fruit", somber raptures of black wine" to refer to African that is personified as a Naked woman, a Black woman in the poem.

The Nurturing Quality of a Black Woman.

In the poem, the poet does not cease to express the unbeatable qualities of a black woman as the source and sustainer of the growing child. The poet expresses his affection and appreciation to the black woman who had care tenderly in the gentleness of her hands until he enters the "promised land" of adulthood (Lines 1- 10). The ability of a black woman to give birth and sustain the life of the infant child is applauded. Also, the role of the African woman as the first teacher of the child is uncovered by the poet, as he remembers his mother's tutelage at the various stages of childhood that sustained his growth into adulthood. (Line 4—5)

“The Theme of Praises of the Africa Culture.

The theme of the praises of the Africa culture cannot be overlooked in the poem. The poet's choice of words to enchant the praises of the black woman is extraordinary.

In lines 1-2, the poet made a direct call of a naked woman, a black woman who is "clothed" with her color which is life. The poet showers praise on the natural black color of the African woman's skin, and everything about the black woman. Her smooth skin is compared to that of an athletel The poet further praises the African woman as graceful and elegant as a gazelle. The natural beauty of the black woman in the poem is the richness of the African culture before the colonization.


Senghor's "Black Woman" is written in seven stanzas, 33 lines. The poem is written from the first-person perspective and in free verse-meaning that it has no set rhyme scheme.

In the first stanza, the poet expresses his fondness for the black woman as he describes the blackness of the color of her skin as beautiful. Here, Africa is presented as a maternal mother who gives life through birth. And under whose shadow the poet persona's childhood has been nourished.

Senghor presents the black woman as a lover in the second stanza of the poem. He compares the black body of the African woman of a ripened fruit, and the Savannah which" shuddering beneath" eagerly caress the east wind. Her skin is further compared to the well "carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom" drum the mutters under a valiant conqueror's fingers. Besides, her solemn contralto voice has become the spiritual song of the beloved" one's.

In the third stanza of the poem, the adoration of the black skin of the African woman continues. Her smooth skin is further compared to that of an athlete On the flanks of the princes of Mali, " the elegant and graceful movement of the black woman is also compared to that of a gazelle limbs formed in paradise. While the pearls shine stars on her skin on a heavenly night of celebration.

In the last stanza, Senghor sees the black woman as Africa personified. He prefers to keep the beauty of the African woman perpetually hanging on the walls of his mind. This memory will not be affected even when "...jealous fate (death) turns her .. to ashes to feed the root of life. The natural beauty of the African woman is compared to that of Africa before the colonial masters invaded and colonized the continent.



The poet's choice of words to symbolized the beauty of the black woman is stunning.

He deliberately uses words like nakedness, black, and darkness which are seen as negative attributes to praise the natural beauty of the black woman. The poet is also challenging the African woman to appreciate her natural beauty and not to bleach the dark skin in the name of the sophisticated culture of the western world.


Metaphor is a prominent figure of speech used in the poem. The black woman is compared to the "promised land," "ripe fruit," "Savannah", oil, and gazelle in lines 4,7,12, and 13.


The literary device is used in line 5 "your beauty strikes me to the heart like the flash of an eagle," the comparison brings to mind the beauty and nobility of an eagle.


line 1 "naked woman, black woman" and. Line 6 "Naked woman, dark woman" is repeated in lines 11 and 16 respectively to emphasize the natural beauty of the African woman.


The "black woman" is figuratively used to personified the African continent and Senghor's country, Senegal. The poet uses beauty of the color of the African woman's skin to personified the rich African culture before western influence and colonization.


The poet's deploys natural imagery to link the Beauty of the black woman to nature, and by the same token to his homeland of Senegal. Natural images like wind, sun, moon, night, and stars are presented as attributes of the darkness of the African woman's skin.


The poet uses alliteration to buttress the beauty of the black woman in lines 1,2,3,6,7,9 etc.

  • Line 1,6,11 and 16 naked women blackwoman
  • Line 2 "clothed with your color which is life, with your form which is beauty"
  • Line 3 "...grown-up; the gentleness..."
  • Line 7 " firm-fleshed ripe fruit..... Mouth making lyrical my mouth"
  • Line 9 "carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom..."


Symbolic words like:" the promised land, ripe fruit, Savannah, oil and gazelle to symbolize the natural beauty of the black woman as a person, as well as a symbol of an African woman and mother Africa.


The mode of the poem is that of Adulation. The poet admires the tremendous beauty of the naked woman, a black woman. He describes everything about the African woman as naturally beautiful.

Senghor sees Africa as the black woman he loves to celebrate. He seeks to adore that state of natural beauty before it is taken away by death.


The poet's tone of the appreciation of the natural beauty of the black woman permeates the poem. He praises the African woman not only for her natural smooth dark skin but also for the way and manner she brings up her children.