Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop (1923-1986)
Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop was a Senegalese historian, anthropologist, nuclear physicist, and politician who studied the human race's origins and pre-colonial African culture, His work is paradigmatic of Afrocentricity and posed important questions about the cultural bias inherent in scientific research. Cheikh Anta Diop University (formerly the University of Dakar) in Dakar, Senegal is named after him.
In 1946, at the age of 23, Diop went to Paris to study. He initially enrolled to study higher mathematics, but then enrolled to study philosophy in the Faculty of Arts of the Sorbonne. He gained his first degree in philosophy in 1948, then enrolled in the Faculty of Sciences, receiving two diplomas in chemistry in 1950.
In 1953, he met Marie Curie's son-in-law, and in 1957, Diop began specializing in nuclear physics at the Laboratory of Nuclear Chemistry of the College de France and the Institut Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. He translated parts of Einstein's Theory of Relativity into his native Wolof. He obtained his doctorate in 1960.
Dr. Diop's biography is continued further below.
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Diop's education in Paris included history, Egyptology, physics, linguistics, anthropology, economics, and sociology. He acquired proficiency in rationalism, dialectics, modern scientific techniques, prehistoric archeology, etc. Diop claimed to be the only Black African of his generation to have received training as an Egyptologist. He proposed that African culture be rebuilt on the basis of ancient Egypt, as European culture was built upon the legacies of ancient Greece and Rome.
Diop was active in the Rassemblement Demogratique Africain (RDA), an African nationalist organization . He was general secretary of the RDA students in Paris from 1950-1953. Under his leadership, the first post-war pan-African student congress was organized in 1951 -- including both French- and English-speaking Africans. The RDA students were highly active in politicizing the anti-colonial struggle and popularized the slogan "National independence from the Sahara to the Cape, and from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic". The movement identified as a key task restoring the African national consciousness, which they argued had been warped by slavery and colonialism.
Diop believed that the political struggle for African independence would not succeed without acknowledging the civilizing role of the African, dating from ancient Egypt. In 1960, upon his return to Senegal, Diop continued what would be a lifelong political struggle. Diop would in the course of over 25 years found three political parties that formed the major opposition in Senegal. Diop was subsequently arrested and thrown in jail where he nearly died.