Negritude Women

Negritude Women

Negritude Women

Negritude Women

Synopsis

The Negritude movement, which signaled the awakening of a pan-African consciousness among black French intellectuals, has been understood almost exclusively in terms of the contributions of its male founders: Aime Cesaire, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and Leon G. Damas. This masculine genealogy has completely overshadowed the central role played by French-speaking black women in its creation and evolution. In Negritude Women, T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting offers a long-overdue corrective, revealing the contributions made by four women -- Suzanne Lacascade, Jane and Paulette Nardal, and Suzanne Roussy-Cesaire -- who were not merely integral to the success of the movement, but often in its vanguard.

Through such disparate tactics as Lacascade's use of Creole expressions in her French prose writings, the literary salon and journal founded by the Martinique-born Nardal sisters, and Roussy-Cesaire's revolutionary blend of surrealism and Negritude in the pages of Tropiques, the journal she founded with her husband, these four remarkable women made vital contributions. In exploring their influence on the development of themes central to Negritude -- black humanism, the affirmation of black peoples and their cultures, and the rehabilitation of Africa -- Sharpley-Whiting provides the movement's first genuinely inclusive history.

Excerpt

Coined in 1936–1937 by the Martinican poet Aimé Césaire during the writing of his now celebrated Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, the word Negritude, denoting a poetics, a literary, cultural, and intellectual movement, signaled the birth of a Pan-Africanist literature among black Francophone writers, a “New Negro” from the Francophone world. Although the neologism is readily traceable to Césaire, mapping the concept of Negritude as the inauguration of a black humanism, as a “theory of black cultural importance and autonomy,” remains the stuff of a panoply of critical works. In efforts to provide a genealogy of Negritude, many literary historians begin its evolution by simply recovering the earliest writings of Aimé Césaire, Léon Damas, and Léopold Sédar Senghor, who have been credited with the movement’s founding. Indeed, according to Georges Ngal, “les deux textes fondateurs du mouvement de la Négritude… dessinent les contours de la matrice du mouvement: revendication, affirmation et illustration de l’identité nègre” [the two founding texts of the Negritude movement… sketched the contours of the matrix of the movement: the claiming, affirmation, and illustration of Negro identity]. These two texts, written by Césaire and Senghor, could be found within the pages of the student journal L’Étudiant noir.

In March 1935, a one-issue, eight-page journal sponsored by the Association des étudiants martiniquais en France appeared on the Paris Left Bank scene. Formerly known as L’Étudiant martiniquais, the Antillean organ of expression was rebaptized L’Étudiant noir in late 1934. Its objective became decidedly Pan-African; that is, the editorial collective attempted to foster dialogue between the ethnically fractured black . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.