On July 9, 1927, David Mandessi Diop was born in Bordeaux, France, to a Cameroonean mother and a Sengalese father. Although he grew up in France and lived most of his life there, Diop spent significant time living and teaching in Africa, which helped reinforce his opposition to European society. Consequently, many of his poems discuss his empathy with Africa and the movement for independence from French Colonialists.
Influenced by Aimé Césaire, his verse first appeared in the journal Présence Africaine and in Léopold Senghor's Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie négre et malgache. Diop's poems in Coups de pilon (1956; "Pounding"), his only surviving collection, are angry protestations and depictions of the evils of slavery and colonialism.
In 1960, Diop was killed in an airplane crash traveling home to France from Dakar, Senegal. Diop had only published one volume of poems and a number of reviews and essays, but at the age of thirty-three, he had already established himself as an important writer in the Negritude movement and one of the most highly regarded men of letters in West Africa.