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France - Martinique

Aimé Césaire, poet and activist, dies, aged 94

Article published on the 2008-04-17 Latest update 2008-04-21 08:46 TU

One of the pioneers of black consciousness in the French-speaking world, Aimé Césaire, has died in hospital in Fort-de-France, Martinique. He was 94 years old. Césaire, whose works are now standard texts in universities, was a pioneering campaigner against racism, founded the Martinique Progressive Party and was mayor of Fort-de-France for 56 years.

Along with fellow West Indian writer Léon Gontran Damas and Léopold Sédar Senghor, who went on to become the first president of Senegal, Césaire was one of the inventors of the term négritude in the 1930s.

Speaking to RFI in 1997, Césaire defined négritude as "a sum of suffering". It was a response to the racism that the three encountered as students in Paris in the 1930s and their attempt to awaken pride in African and black identity.

Former Senegalese president Abdou Diouf paid tribute to him as "a poet who had a whole stature while remaining deeply attached to the cultural values of the black world".

French President Nicolas Sarkozy described him as "a free and independent spirit", who embodied "the struggle for identity and the richness of his African roots". The president will attend the funeral of Césaire in Martinique.

Aimé Césaire was admitted to hospital with heart trouble on 9 April.

Recordings of Césaire in French can be downloaded from RFI's French-language website.

Read Aimé Césaire's obituary