In his collection of poems Black Hosts, Léopold Senghor, a leading figure in the Negritude movement and the first president of Senegal, offers the suffering and death of Africans, rather than that of Christ, as a site for the healing of a fractured and antagonistic world. Drawing from literature, history, political science, anthropology, and theology, David Tonghou Ngong’s Senghor’s Eucharist investigates the possibilities and perils of Senghor’s offer.
Ngong argues that, while Senghor might be accused of cheapening African suffering by offering an easy pardon to colonizers and others who have harmed Africans, his work should be situated within the Negritude movement and its intention to revalorize the lives of Africans in a world that often treats African lives as disposable. Indeed, by connecting the suffering of Africans to the central figure of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ, Senghor suggests that at the heart of Western Christianity lies a disturbing betrayal—the refusal of communion, to eat together, as dramatized in the Eucharist. Consequently, if critically engaged, Senghor’s poetic challenge may open up not only avenues through which Eucharistic theology may inform African politics but also serve as a way for African political theology to enact a cosmopolitan vision that is sorely needed in our time.
In an era of increasing global fragmentation along racial, ethnic, sexual, and other lines, reclaiming Senghor’s Eucharistic African vision as found in "Black Hosts" may help us begin to reimagine a new life not only for Africans but also for the rest of humanity. Critically, Senghor urges us to recognize that the life of Africans is necessarily connected to the life of the world—indeed, that Africa itself in all its complexity, tragedy, and triumph is a cruciform vessel through which passes the earth’s redemption and reconciliation.
1. Created in Their Image
2. The Eucharist as Communion and Witchcraft
3. Negritude beyond Blackness
4. The Meaning of Our Suffering
5. The Problem of Forgiveness and Reconciliation
David Tonghou Ngong is Professor of Religion and Theology at Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
In Senghor’s Eucharist, David Ngong, dives into the depths of the anti-colonial cultural movement called Negritude. From there, he fetches amongst others, some of the most spiritually explicit poetic offerings of the late Senegalese philosopher and statesman, Léopold Sédar Senghor. Hosties Noire ( Black Hosts) is the title which Senghor gave the exquisite collection of poems he penned between 1938 and 1945. Senghor’s Eucharist provides one of the most incisive and original readings of Black Hosts I have ever come across. Ngong suggests that in Black Hosts Senghor depicts the suffering of Africa and Africans—through slavery and colonialism—as a Eucharist for a world in need of redemption and forgiveness. This is a massive proposal with groundbreaking, if also controversial, theological implications. And Ngong does not disappoint. Deftly and meticulously, he unravels each theological hint and each literary clue embedded both in his proposal and in the meanings of the individual poems that make up Black Hosts. The result is the best African Political Theology book I have read in the past five years. Once I started reading Senghor’s Eucharist, I could not put it down.
~Tinyiko Maluleke, Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
This book is one of the most interesting contributions to political theology from an African context that I have read. David Ngong offers a nuanced appreciation and critique of Senegalese Catholic poet and statesman Leopold Senghor’s Eucharistic imagining of a world in which the suffering of Africa at the hands of the West can be reconciled and overcome. Ngong’s book is interdisciplinary, critical, profound, and inspiring.
~William T. Cavanaugh, Professor of Catholic Studies, DePaul University
Clear, compelling, and wide-ranging, this book offers a powerful new interpretation of Senghor’s life and legacy. Ngong offers a model of excellence in theological scholarship, inviting readers to think in important new ways about Christian faith.
~Vincent Lloyd, Professor and Director, Center for Political Theology, Villanova University