The symbol of the mask comes from Senghor's poems "Prayer to the Masks" and "Black Mask". The mask he refers to in the poem is an actual West African stylized mask. In the poem the mask represents the permanence of the past in the present. This representation is achieved through Senghor's choice to elevate the mask outside of a particular time. The mask becomes a figure that is carried on throughout eternity which corresponds with the idea presented in negritude that the past will be key in making a culture for the future.
Negritude is a term coined from a literary and ideological movement developed by French-speaking black intellectuals during the 1930s, which reflected a widespread reaction to the colonial situation. It was a movement that influenced Blacks around the world to reject the social, political and moral domination of European colonizers. The external factor defining black persons in modern society is their physical and physiological domination by white persons; the beauty and vitality of the black person is constricted by internalization of colonialism.