The first World Festival of Black Arts took in Dakar, Senegal on April 1, 1966. According to accounts, the largest international representation hailed from the United States among the 45 countries represented.

The World Festival of Black Arts, also known as Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres, was planned in conjunction with UNESCO and initiated by former Senegalese President Leopold Senghor. The Pan-African celebration focused on various areas such as art, music, dance, theater, debate, politics, and more.

Black Americans were a prominent fixture of the festival, with the likes of dance pioneer Alvin Ailey, jazz greats Duke Ellington, poets Langston Hughes and Amiri Baraka, and gospel vocalist Marion Williams. among many others. Filmmaker William Greaves captured the events of the festival and released a 1968 documentary titled “The First World Festival of the Negro Arts.”

The next festival took place in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977, featuring musicians Stevie Wonder, Sun Ra, and Donald Byrd. The last festival returned to its originating home of Dakar, Senegal in 2010 with likes of Wyclef Jean and other prominent entertainers and figures from around the globe in attendance.


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