Cheikh Anta Diop, one of the major world scholars, was born near Diourbel, Senegal on December 29, 1923. At the age of twenty-three, he went to Paris, France to continue advanced studies in physics. Within a very short time, however, he was drawn deeper into studies relating to the African origins of humanity and civilization. Becoming more and more active in the African student movements and demanding the independence of French colonial possessions, he became convinced that only by reexamining and restoring Africa's distorted, maligned and obscured place in world history could the physical and psychological shackles of colonialism be lifted from all African people. His initial doctoral dissertation submitted at the University of Paris, Sorbonne in 1951, based on the premise that Egypt of the pharaohs was an African civilization was rejected by his committee. Nevertheless, Alioune Diop, publisher of Presence Africaine, determined to publish under the title Nations Negres et Culture in 1955 and it won him international acclaim. Two additional attempts to have his doctorate granted were turned back until 1960 when he entered his defense session with an array of sociologists, anthropologists and historians and successfully carried his argument. After nearly a decade of effort, Diop won his battle for the doctorate. By this time, Diop had other intellectual works--the Cultural Unity of Black Africa and Precolonial Black Africa, as a result of his studies.
During his student days, Cheikh Anta Diop was an avid political activist. From 1950 to 1953 he was the Secretary-General of the Rassemblement Democratique Africain (RDA) and helped establish the first Pan-African Student Congress in Paris in 1951. He also participated in the First World Congress of Black Writers and Artists held in Paris in 1956 and the second such Congress held in Rome in 1959. Upon returning to Senegal in 1960, Dr. Diop continued his research and established a radiocarbon laboratory in Dakar. In 1966, the First World Black Festival of Arts and Culture held in Dakar, Senegal honored Dr. Diop and Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois as the scholars who exerted the greatest influence on African thought in twentieth century. In 1974, a milestone occurred in the English-speaking world when the African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality was finally published. It was also in 1974 that Diop and Theophile Obenga collectively and soundly reaffirmed the African origin of Pharaonic Egyptian civilization at a UNESCO sponsored symposium in Cairo, Egypt. In 1981, Diop's last major work translated in English, Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology, was published. Cheikh Anta Diop was the Director of Radiocarbon Laboratory at the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (IFAN) at the University of Dakar.
Cheikh Anta Diop died quietly in sleep in Dakar, Senegal on February 7, 1986. Two years after Diop's death, Molefi Kete Asante founded the International Cheikh Anta Diop Conference in honor of Afrocentric scholarship.