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négritude


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[nay-gri-tood]

The slogan (literally ‘negro-ness’) of a cultural movement launched by black students in Paris in 1932, subsequently influencing many black writers, especially in the French-speaking world. The movement aimed to reassert traditional African cultural values against the French colonial policy of assimilating blacks into white culture. Its two most important figures were the Senegalese poet and politician Léopold Sédar Senghor and the Martiniquan poet and politician Aimé Césaire, and its literary masterpiece is Césaire's Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (1938). Senghor defined négritude very broadly as ‘the sum total of the values of the civilization of the African world,’ understood in terms of ‘intuitive reason’ and ‘cosmic rhythm’. The influential journal Présence Africaine, founded in 1947, promoted this ideal. A later, more politically radical generation of black writers, however, questioned the movement's limited aims: as Wole Soyinka wrote, ‘the tiger does not proclaim his tigritude—he pounces’. For a fuller account, consult Lilyan Kesteloot, Black Writers in French: A Literary History of Négritude (1991).

Subjects: Literature.


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