Aim? C?saire, poet, author and politician, was born on 26th June 1913 in Basse-Pointe, Martinique. After receiving a scholarship C?saire went to France at the age of 18, studying Latin, Greek, and French literature. It was during his student days in France that C?saire rediscovered his African roots.

While in France C?saire met L?opold S?dar Senghor and L?on Damas, and in 1935 the three published the first issue of the literary review L’?tudiant Noir (The Black Student), which formed the basis of the N?gritude Movement.

The N?gritude Movement promoted the necessity for a common black identity and solidarity amongst Africans in the diaspora to fight and overcome the domination and racism of French colonialism. The Movement was underpinned by Marxist ideas shaped by African history, traditions, and beliefs.

Whilst in France C?saire married Suzanne Roussi, a fellow Martinican in 1937. They moved back to Martinique in 1939 and became actively involved in the political and literary development of the island. Initially working as a teacher (he taught Frantz Fanon), C?saire was later elected as Mayor of Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, and a representative to the French National Assembly.

In 1941, in collaboration with Rene M?nil and Astride Maug?e, C?saire and Suzanne founded the cultural review, Tropiques. One of C?saire’s greatest works, Discourse on Colonialism, published in the fifities, heavily influenced Fanon’s later revolutionary masterpiece Black Skin, White Masks.

Though politically left leaning, C?saire had joined the French Communist Party (PCF) as a student, he appeared to favour autonomy within a French federation rather than complete independence. This was later promoted by the political party he founded in 1958, the Martinican Progressive Party. It is worth noting that two years earlier he had left the PCF disillusioned because of the suppression of the Hungarian revolution by the Soviet Union.

After C?saire’s formal retirement from politics, the world was once again reminded of his anti-colonial sentiments in 2005 when he refused to meet with Nicolas Sarkozy, then French Minister of the Interior, because of the law passed by the Union for a Popular Movement, Sarkozy’s party, requiring French schools to teach that French colonialism had made a positive contribution to the countries it colonised. Martinique remains an overseas territory of France.

Upon his death C?saire was given a state funeral in Martinique. Sarkozy was present but did not speak.

The following video by Democracy Now honours the life and contribution of Aim? C?saire:

By: Amma Fosuah

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