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Aimé Cesaire and Negritude

Aimé Cesaire and Negritude

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Published by Medway08
'Negritude', or Negro-ness as a precursor to the Black Pride movement
'Negritude', or Negro-ness as a precursor to the Black Pride movement

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Published by: Medway08 on May 22, 2008
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02/27/2013

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 Aimé-Fernand-David Césaire
 
Martinican poet, playwright, and politician, who was cofounder with Léopold Sédar Senghor of  Negritude, an influential movement to restore the cultural identity of black Africans.Together with Senghor and others involved in the Negritude movement, Césaire was educated inParis. In the early 1940s he returned to Martinique and engaged in political action supporting thedecolonization of the French colonies of Africa. In 1945 he became mayor of Fort-de-France, thecapital of Martinique, and he retained that position until 2001 (he was briefly out of office in1983–84). In 1946 Césaire became a deputy for Martinique in the French National Assembly.Viewing the plight of the blacks as only one facet of the proletarian struggle, he joined theCommunist Party (1946–56). He found thatSurrealism,which freed him from the traditional forms of language, was the best expression for his convictions. He voiced his ardent rebellion ina French that was heavy with African imagery. In the fiery poems of 
Cahier d'un retour au paysnatal 
(1939;
 Return to My Native Land 
) and
Soleil cou-coupé 
(1948; “Cutthroat Sun”), he lashedout against the oppressors.Césaire turned to the theatre, discarding Negritude for black militancy. His tragedies arevehemently political:
 La Tragédie du Roi Christophe
(1963;
The Tragedy of King Christophe
), adrama of decolonization in 19th-century Haiti, and
Une Saison au Congo
(1966;
 A Season in theCongo
), the epic of the 1960 Congo rebellion and of the assassination of the Congolese politicalleader Patrice Lumumba. Both depict the fate of black power as forever doomed to failure.
 Négritude
 
literary movement of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s that began among French-speakingAfrican and Caribbean writers living in Paris as a protest against French colonial rule and the policy of assimilation. Its leading figure was Léopold Sédar Senghor (elected first president of  the Republic of Senegal in 1960), who, along withAimé Césairefrom Martinique and Léon Damas from French Guiana, began to examine Western values critically and to reassess Africanculture.The Negritude movement was influenced by theHarlem Renaissance, a literary and artisticflowering that emerged among a group of black thinkers and artists (including novelists and poets) in the United States, in New York City, during the 1920s. The group was determined tothrow off the masking (to use the word of critic Houston A. Baker, Jr.) and indirection that hadnecessarily attended black expression in a hostile society. The Harlem Renaissance is associatedwith such writers as poetLangston Hughes, but it wasClaude McKay,a somewhat lesser-known figure, who caught the attention of Senghor. The Jamaican-born poet and novelist was one of theHarlem group's most prominent spokesmen. He believed that a writer should deal with important political subjects, and he himself had much to say about institutionalized racism.McKay spent a good deal of time in France, where he got to know a West Indian family whoheld an informal salon attended by writers, musicians, and intellectuals, including visitingAmericans. Members of the group that attended the salon began to publish
 Revue du Monde Noir 
(“Review of the Black World”) in 1931. Poetry by McKay and Hughes appeared in the review,where Senghor, an occasional visitor to the salon, probably saw their work. Possibly by that time,

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