On the first page of his “The Spirit of Civilization” essay, Senghor calls for a Negro/African Renaissance that will lead to a cultural rebirth like that which occurred in Europe. He looks to the European example not for imitation but rather to remind his fellow blacks that if Europe could emerge from the cultural decimation of the Dark Ages and revolutionize their culture; then blacks who have experienced cultural decimation through centuries of colonialism can also create anew and revitalize their culture. He assures the conference that such a rebirth is possible: “By the grace of God, the flame is not quenched, the leaven in our wounded hearts and bodies to make possible our Renaissance today.”
The driving force behind this African Renaissance will be Negritude because it is a vital life force that can sustain a people and give direction to their culture. Africans must remember their mythic ancient past, which was not created like the European invention of Hellenic origins. This African past has survived the centuries of colonization and subjugation and along with Negritude must be moved back to the center of cultural life and away from the margins where it was under colonial regimes. The leaders of this renaissance will be the intellectuals and artists, “But this Renaissance will be the doing not so much of the politicians, as of the Negro writers and artists” (51). For Senghor, the African renaissance is the only way start a new civilization, to enter the world stage, and participate in world culture which blacks across the world have been unable to do for centuries because of colonization and subjugation. It is their time to make an impact.