Amadou Hampâté Bâ was born to an aristocratic Fula family in Bandiagara, the largest city in Dogon territory and the capital of the precolonial Masina Empire. After his father's death, he was adopted by his mother's second husband, Tidjani Amadou Ali Thiam of the Toucouleur ethnic group. He first attended the Qur'anic school run by Tierno Bokar, a dignitary of the Tijaniyyah brotherhood, then transferred to a French school at Bandiagara, then to one at Djenné. In 1915, he ran away from school and rejoined his mother at Kati, where he resumed his studies.
In 1921, he turned down entry into the école normale in Gorée. As a punishment, the governor appointed him to Ouagadougou with the role he later described as that of "an essentially precarious and revocable temporary writer". From 1922 to 1932, he filled several posts in the colonial administration in Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso and from 1932 to 1942 in Bamako. In 1933, he took a six month leave to visit Tierno Bokar, his spiritual leader.(see also:Sufi studies)
In 1942, he was appointed to the Institut Français d’Afrique Noire (IFAN, French Institute of Black Africa) in Dakar thanks to the benevolence of Théodore Monod, its director. At IFAN, he made ethnological surveys and collected traditions. For 15 years he devoted himself to research, which would later lead to the publication of his work L'Empire peul de Macina (The Fula Empire of Macina). In 1951, he obtained a UNESCO grant, allowing him to travel to Paris and meet with intellectuals from Africanist circles, notably Marcel Griaule.
With Mali's independence in 1960, Bâ founded the Institute of Human Sciences in Bamako, and represented his country at the UNESCO general conferences. In 1962, he was elected to UNESCO's executive council, and in 1966 he helped establish a unified system for the transcription of African languages.
His term in the executive council ended in 1970, and he devoted the remaining years of his life to research and writing. In 1971, he moved to the Marcory suburb of Abidjan, and worked on classifying the archives of West African oral tradition that he had accumulated throughout his lifetime, as well as writing his memoirs (Amkoullel l'enfant peul and Oui mon commandant!, both published posthumously).
- L'Empire peul du Macina (The Fula Empire of Macina, 1955, new edition in 1984)
- Vie en enseignement de Tierno Bokar, le sage de Bandiagara (The Life and Education of Tierno Bokar, the Sage of Bandiagara, 1957, rewritten in 1980)
(translated into English and published under a new title, A Spirit of Tolerance: The Inspiring Life of Tierno Bokar by World Wisdom, 2008)
- Kaïdara, récit initiatique peul 1969
- Kaïdara, a Fula initiation tale 1988
- L'étrange destin du Wangrin (The Strange Destiny of Wangrin, 1973, grand prix de littérature d’Afrique noire 1974)
- L'Éclat de la grande étoile (The Brightness of the Great Star, 1974)
- Jésus vu par un musulman (Jesus, as Viewed by a Muslim, 1976)
- Petit Bodiel (conte peul) et version en prose de Kaïdara (Little Bodiel (a Fula tale) and a prose version of Kaïdara, 1977)
- Njeddo Dewal, mère de la calamité (Njeddo Dewal, Mother of Calamity, 1985, Fula fantasy tale)
- La poignée de poussière, contes et récits du Mali (A Handful of Dust, Malian Stories, 1987)
- Amkoullel, l'enfant peul (Amkoullel, the Fula Child, 1991, the first part of his memoir)
- Oui mon commandant! (Yes, My Commander, 1994, the second part of his memoir) were published posthumously
- En Afrique, quand un vieillard meurt, c’est une bibliothèque qui brûle. — "In Africa, when an old man dies, it's a library burning." 1960 at l'UNESCO.
- Les peuples de race noire n'étant pas des peuples d'écriture ont développé l'art de la parole d'une manière toute spéciale. Pour n'être pas écrite, leur littérature n'en est pas moins belle. Combien de poèmes, d'épopées, de récits historiques et chevaleresques, de contes didactiques, de mythes et de légendes au verbe admirable se sont ainsi transmis à travers les siècles, fidèlement portés par la mémoire prodigieuse des hommes de l'oralité, passionnément épris de beau langage et presque tous poètes ! 1985. — "The people of Black race, as they are not peoples [with a tradition of written literature], have developed the art of speech in a most special manner. While it is not written, their literature is not less beautiful. How many poems, epics, historic and chilvalrous narratives, didatic tales, myths and legends of egregious [literary style] have so been transmitted through centuries, carried by the prodigious memory of the men with an [oral tradition's], passionately in love with beautiful language and almost all poets."
- Je suis un diplômé de la grande université de la Parole enseignée à l’ombre des baobabs. — "I graduated from the great university of the Spoken Word taught in the shade of baobab trees."
- Si tu sais que tu ne sais pas, alors tu sauras. — "If you know that you do not know, then you will know."
- This article began as a translation of the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia, accessed 9 April 2005.
- Hawkins, Peter. "Amadou Hampaté Ba". French Literature Companion. Answers.com. Retrieved 2009-04-02.
- webPulaaku. Amadou Hampâte Bâ (French, English, Pular/Fulfulde)
- Malian ministry of culture, dossier for the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Amadou Hampâté Bâ (in French)
- Publisher’s Author Information Page
- Dielika Diallo. Hampate Ba: the great conciliator. UNESCO Courier, Jan, 1992.
- Biography and guide to collected works: African Studies Centre, Leiden
- Palais de la Culture Amadou Hampaté Ba Official Website (in French)