In April 1966, thousands of artists, musicians, performers, and writers from across Africa and its diaspora—including Duke Ellington, Wole Soyinaka, and Aimé Césaire—gathered in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, to take part in the First World Festival of Negro Arts (Fig. 1). Held against the backdrop of African decolonization and the push for Civil Rights in the United States, the event was widely hailed as the inaugural cultural gathering of the black world. The brainchild of Senegalese poet and president Léopold Sédar Senghor (Fig. 2), the festival was organized by the Société Africaine de Culture, an offshoot of the Présence Africaine publishing house, piloted by Senghor's compatriot Alioune Diop.

An exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, “Dakar 66: Chronicles of a Pan-African Festival” marked the fiftieth anniversary of the event. The exhibition led...

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