So I try to post my term of the week every Wednesday but dropped the ball last week cuz I was busy as hell & fighting this cold. Shit I have been down for the last few days & my glands are still swollen but I have more energy at least. After I am done here, I will be popping some pills & talking a nap!
Moving along & getting back on topic, while I was putting together my last “Term of the week” Coon(ing), I was going to use the word Negrotude to describe one of the people that I mentioned but before I did, I decided to Google it & winded up misspelling it so I clicked Négritude because Google as if this was the word that I meant.
So after clicking it to get a new set of search results, I figured that I had a whole new thing & a learning opportunity for myself so I want to share this in case there are others out there who were not up on the Négritude movement from the 1930’s.
History of Négritude:
Négritude is a literary and political movement developed in the 1930s by a group that included the future Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor, Martinican poet Aimé Césaire, and the Guianan Léon Damas. The Négritude writers found solidarity in a common black identity as a rejection of French colonial racism. They believed that the shared black heritage of members of the African diaspora was the best tool in fighting against French political and intellectual hegemony and domination.
The movement was influenced by the Harlem Renaissance, and particularly the works of African-American writers Langston Hughes and Richard Wright, whose works address the themes of “blackness” and racism. Further inspiration came from Haiti, where there had similarly been a flourishing of black culture in the early 20th Century, and which historically holds particular pride of place in the African diaspora world due to the slave revolution led by Toussaint L’Ouverture in the 1790’s. Césaire speaks, thus, of Haiti as being “where négritude stood up for the first time.” On the European side, there was also influence and support from from the Surrealism movement.
During the 1920s and 1930s, a small group of black students and scholars from France’s colonies and territories assembled in Paris where they were introduced to the writers of the Harlem Renaissance by Paulette Nardal and her sister Jane. Paulette Nardal and the Haitian Dr. Leo Sajou founded La revue du Monde Noir (1931-32), a literary journal published in English and French, which attempted to be a mouthpiece for the growing movement of African and Caribbean intellectuals in Paris. This Harlem connection was also shared by the closely parallel development of negrismo in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and it is likely that there were many influences between the movements, which differed in language but were in many ways united in purpose. At the same time, “Murderous Humanitarianism” (1932) was signed by prominent Surrealists including the Martiniquan surrealists Pierre Yoyotte and J.M. Monnerot and the relationship developed especially with Aimé Césaire. (read more here)
The word Négritude was coined by Aimé Césaire, from the French word nègre, which was equivalent to “black” or “Negro” in France but “nigger” in Martinique. Césaire deliberately and proudly incorporated this derogatory word into the name of his ideological movement.
Léopold Sédar Senghor – Senegalese poet and statesman, founder of the Senegalese Democratic Bloc. Senghor was elected president of Senegal in the 1960s. He retired from office in 1980. Senghor was one of the originators of the concept of Négritude, defined as the literary and artistic expression of the black African experience. In historical context the term has been seen as an ideological reaction against French colonialism and a defense of African culture. It has deeply influenced the strengthening of African identity in the French-speaking black world.
Aimé Césaire – Martinican poet, playwright, and politician, one of the most influential authors from the French-speaking Caribbean. Césaire’s thoughts about restoring the cultural identity of black Africans were first fully expressed in Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Return to My Native Land), a mixture of poetry and poetic prose. The work celebrated the ancestral homelands of Africa and the Caribbean. It was completed in 1939 but not published in full form until 1947.
my negritude is not a stone
nor a deafness flung against the clamor of the day
my negritude is not a white speck of dead water
on the dead eye of the earth
my negritude is neither tower nor cathedral
it plunges into the red flesh of the soil
it plunges into the blaxing flesh of the sky
my negritude riddles with holes
the dense affliction of its worthy patience.
Léon Damas – Leon-Gontran Damas was born in Cayenne, French Guyana in 1912 to a middle-class family. His father was mulatto of partly European origin and there was Amerindian and African ancestry on his mother’s side of the family. Young Damas received his primary education in Cayenne, but he later moved to Martinique and attended Lycée Schoelcher there. At this lycée (French secondary school financed by the government) he shared philosophy classes with young Aime Cesaire and the two started what would become a lifelong friendship.
Damas’s work is significantly influenced by the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, the ideas of French surrealism, and the rhythms and tunes of African American blues and jazz. Damas himself has also commented that in his poems one can “find rhythm”, that his poems “can be danced and they can be sung”.
Négritude Time Line:
- 1517 – France begins enslaving black Africans
- 1636 – Martinique colonized by Louis XIII – the first black slaves arrive
- 1665 – Le Code noir, by Jean-Baptiste Colbert (French chief financial minister) – Rulebook for the treatment of slaves
- 1789 – French Revolution – Major themes include the rights of man, the issue of slavery.
- 1804 – Haiti is the first French colony to gain independence
- 1823 – Ourika, by Mme de Duras (wife of Louis XVIII’s chamberlain) – The first French-language novel to address the effects of racism on black people.
- 1848 – Victor Schoelscher (French under-secretary) abolishes slavery in the colonies
- 1919 – Harlem Renaissance (US) – Césaire and Damas were greatly inspired by this valuation of the culture, literature, art, and music of the black world, notably:
- W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
- Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
- Alain Leroy Locke, The New Negro
- Claude McKay, Banjo, Home to Harlem
- 1921 – Negrismo (Cuba) – Celebration of black-Cuban music, rhythm, folklore, literature, poetry, and art
- 1927 – Journal: La Revue Indigène, by Jacques Roumain – Attempt to rediscover a black African authenticity in the Antilles
- 1930 – Book of poetry: Pigments, by Damas – Sometimes referred to as the manifesto of Négritude. General theme of demystification: we need to cure the ills of Western society. Some highlights:
- Ils sont venus ce soir The night white man arrived and kidnapped Africans for slavery, many people were killed – we don’t even know how many.
- Un Clochard m’a demandé 10 sous Damas once had to beg for money, but pride helped him to grow strong enough to earn it instead.
- Solde Whites are pretentious and ridiculous, never mind cruel, yet Blacks have to be their accomplices.
- S.O.S. Why and how on earth did Whites decide to steal Blacks and to commit such Hitleresque acts?
- Blanchi Whites try to bleach us, but we want only to be black.
- 1931 – The trois pères meet in Paris and begin discussing and dreaming about Négritude.
- Journal: La Revue du monde noir (The Journal of the Black World), by Paulette Nardal and Dr. Sajoux. In addition to disseminating ideas via the journal, this collaboration led to a kind of club where black writers could meet to discuss related issues.
- 1932 – Journal: Légitime défense – A single issue of a Marxist, revolutionary, surrealist journal published by a group of Martinican students and immediately suppressed.
- 1934 – Journal: L’Étudiant noir (The Black Student), by the three fathers – Break down nationalistic barriers among black people; recognize, approach, and unify black people in Africa, France, and the Antilles. This was the first and most important political and cultural journal of la Négritude.
- 1935 – Birth of la Négritude – Seek out richness and originality, rehabilitate that which had been marginalized. Already independent, Haiti isn’t interested in participating.
- 1938 – Journal: Les Griots, by François Duvalier – Contributions of black African civilization
- 1939 – Poem: Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to My Native Land), by Césaire – The word Négritude appears for the first time in this poem about being black and living in the Antilles.
(Continuation of Timeline)
Back to Me:
To end, this post is a good damn reason why I love Google. I typed something wrong & got a corrective suggestion that became the term of the week.
Have you heard or studied the Négritude movement & do you think that movements like Négritude & the Harlem Renaissance will ever appear again bringing us into a renewed self-consciousness?