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Negritude - Influences

black french césaire cultural

Negritude became internationally recognized with the publication of Césaire's book-length poem, Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (Return to my native land) in 1939. The Césaire-Senghor collaboration that led up to this moment was indeed serendipitous. They met as colonial scholarship students in Paris. Each had been strongly influenced by the scope for rehabilitating black history and culture evinced by such recent movements as the Harlem Renaissance, and admired greatly the work of such poets as James Weldon Johnson, Jean Toomer, and Claude McKay. René Menil, a constituent member of the Parisian group that published the radical manifesto Légitime défense (Legitimate defense) in 1932, was also a major influence on Césaire, and joined him later in launching the Martinique-based periodical Tropiques. The Revue du monde noir (Review of the black world), published 1931–1932, introduced them to the work of such writers and educators as Langston Hughes and Alain Locke; they were also influenced by the presence in Paris of the French Guyanese author René Maran, the author of Batouala, which had won the French Prix Goncourt in 1921 and was subsequently banned in French African colonies. Together with a group of fellow students, they launched a literary magazine, L'Etudiant noir (The black student), which took a militant stand against black cultural assimilation by actively seeking to explore and valorize the singularity of the black cultural experience. The publication inaugurated the use of the word negritude, and appeared roughly half a dozen times before closing in 1936. During this period Césaire and Senghor, along with their friend and collaborator, the French Guyanese poet Léon Dumas, culled from these influences a framework for rehabilitating and resituating the articulation of black consciousness and its attendant cultural expression, even within an ongoing context of colonialism and racism.

Negritude - Philosophy And Practice: Césaire [next]

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