Aimé Césaire, a poet and playwright from Martinique, was one of the founders and creators of the Negritude movement, a concept created by black politicians, intellectuals, and writers in France during the 1930s. Quite literally, the word negritude means blackness. The Negritude movement was one of solidarity of a common black identity, using that to reject the colonial racism of the French. Césaire in particular had an emphasis on reclaiming history, stating, “Négritude, in my eyes, is not a philosophy. Négritude is not a metaphysics. Négritude is not a pretentious conception of the universe. It is a way of living history within history: the history of a community whose experience appears to be … unique, with its deportation of populations, its transfer of people from one continent to another, its distant memories of old beliefs, its fragments of murdered cultures. How can we not believe that all this, which has its own coherence, constitutes a heritage?”
Acceptance and celebration of one’s blackness is another part of Negritude that Césaire emphasized. One of his books, Discourse on Colonialism was a key player in establishing the literary and ideological side of the Negritude movement, and established the importance of acceptance of blackness. His grew frustrated with the anti-black thought or barbarism directed toward Africans from members of its diaspora that had been colonized. The “colored petit-bourgeois” of the Caribbean were those who had a “fundamental tendency to ape Europe”. Césaire rejected the ideals of the colonized mind that suggested colonization and Christianity brought civilization to African peoples. Cultural identity and black identity were key topics in Césaire’s works. Through recognizing, accepting, and celebrating one’s blackness, an identity separate from Eurocentric influence could be cultivated, rejecting the imposition of colonial rule on the mind. The Harlem Renaissance provided great influence for Césaire’s ideology on black identity. It allowed him as a writer to find “an expression of black pride, a consciousness of a culture, an affirmation of a distinct identity that was in sharp contrast to French assimilationism.”
Césaire had a passion for civic engagement, criticizing colonialism and anti-blackness in his writings. He retired from politics in 2001, after serving notably as the President of the Regional Council of Martinique from 1983 to 1988. In 2008 at the age of 94, Césaire died after being admitted to the Pierre Zobda Quitman hospital for heart trouble. His legacy continues to live on in his writing and ideologies.
Sources: A Discourse on Colonialism, http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/comparative_literature_studies/v050/50.3.beebee.html, http://www.brittannica.com/EBchecked/topic/103729/Aime-Cesaire.