Aimé Césaire: black poet activist and politician from Martinique

Aimé Césaire: black poet activist and politician from Martinique.

  • Birth: June 26, 1913, Lower Point-Pointe Martinique
  • Death: April 17, 2008, Fort-de-France, Martinique

Poet, committed writer, Aimé Césaire is also a French politician who has marked the history of France.

His childhood

Coming from a modest family of 7 children, Aimé Césaire, real name Aimé Fernand David Césaire was born in 1913 in Basse-Pointe in Martinique.

On a scholarship, he studied at the Lycée Victor Schoelcher in Fort-de-France. Then in September 1931, he left for Paris to study at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. There, he met Léopold Sédar Senghor (future president of Senegal) and became friends with him. A great friendship was born.  He passed the École normale supérieure exam and immersed himself in literature.

Founder of the negritude literary movement.

“I am of the race of those who are oppressed”.

Aimé Césaire is passionate about literature. He regularly attends Paulette Nardal’s literary salon. During this time, he meets many African students. Following their debates, he realizes the importance of talking about black consciousness and bringing together black intellectuals.

Together with other students, such as Léon-Gontran Damas, Léopold Senghor, Césaire founded the magazine “L’Etudiant noir” in 1934. In this journal, he will found the literary movement of negritude and forge its concept.

What is the concept of negritude?

The concept of “negritude” is a humanistic literary movement that claims the intellectual and cultural values of the “black man”. This concept highlights African culture. And fights in parallel against racism and the French colonialist system.

Return to his native land.

World War II is here. In 1939, he obtained the agrégation de lettres. Aimé Césaire decides to return to Martinique. He becomes a teacher and teaches with his wife Suzanne at the Lycée Victor Schoelcher. At the same time, he published his masterpiece “Cahier d’un retour au pays natal”.

He founded the newspaper “Tropiques” with other French writers and intellectuals.

His thought is powerful. Césaire influenced black intellectuals all over the world. 

A Martinican politician

Aimé Césaire is a member of the Communist Party. In 1945, he was elected mayor of Fort-de-France. He later became a deputy. In 1956, he decided to leave the Communist Party because he did not agree with destalinization. He founded the Martinique Progressive Party (PPM), which demands the autonomy of Martinique.

He was a Member of Parliament until 1993, for 48 years. He will sit, as a non-attached member, in the National Assembly. Then, he will be related as a socialist from 1978 to 1993. He passed a law recognizing the former overseas colonies as French departments. Poetry and politics are closely linked in the incredible destiny of this committed man.

During his mandate, he fought for more justice between men. He promotes the people and culture by organizing regular festivals every year. He was mayor of Fort-de-France until 2001, before retiring.

He died on April 17, 2008 and was entitled to a national funeral in Fort-de-France, in the presence of the President of the Republic.

His poetry and works will influence black men all over the world, in Africa, the West Indies, Europe and the United States.

Some of these works!

  • Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (1939)
  • Les Armes miraculeuses (1946)
  • Soleil cou coupé (1947)
  • Esclavage et colonisation (1948)
  • Corps perdu (1950)
  • Discours sur le colonialisme (1950)
  • Une saison au Congo (1966, théâtre)

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