Aimé Césaire (1913-2008) was born in Basse-Pointe, a village on the north coast of Martinique, a former French colony in the Caribbean (now an overseas département of France).
His book Discourse on Colonialism (1950) is a classic of French political literature. Notebook of a Return to My Native Land (1956) is the foundation stone of francophone Black literature: it is here that the word Negritude appeared for the first time. Negritude has come to mean the cultural, philosophical and political movement co-founded in Paris in the 1930s by three Black students from French colonies: the poets Léon-Gontran Damas from French Guiana; Léopold Senghor, later President of Senegal; and Aimé Césaire, who became a deputy in the French National Assembly for the Revolutionary Party of Martinique and was repeatedly elected Mayor of Fort-de-France.
Césaire attended high school and college in France, returning to Martinique during the Second World War. He was mayor of Fort-de-France from 1945 to 2001, except for a break from 1983 to 1984. He helped Martinique shed its colonial status in 1946 to become an overseas département of France. He was affiliated with the French Communist Party early in his career but became disillusioned in the 1950s and founded the Martinique Progressive Party in 1958. He later allied with the Socialist Party in France’s National Assembly, where he served from 1946 to 1956 and from 1958 to 1993. He died in 2008, aged 94.