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Friday, February 23, 2024

The 1956 Paris Congress and the Négritude Movement

CSMS Magazine Staff writers

delegateslgIn the wake of new demands from some of our readers with regards to the Paris conference of 1956 and the Négritude movement (Jacques Roumain’s version), CSMS Magazine feels obligated to reproduce this earlier version of a reflection published back in 2007. It was in that conference that Jacques Stephen Alexis presented to the world for the first time his Proligomène à un Réalisme Merveilleux des Haitiens  (Prolegomena to a Haitian Marvelous Realism). This speech is the only known recording of JSA’s voice, as Florence Alexis, JSA’s daughter has confirmed to Dr. Ardain Isma.


In light of keeping up with the spirit of Jacques Roumain, the father of the true négritude movement, CSMS Magazine is offering to its readers a glimpse of the major speakers during the opening ceremonies at the First International Congress of Black Writers and Artists in 1956 in Paris. It was a historical moment, where Afro-intellectuals all over the globe poured into Paris to denounce colonialist powers such as France and Great Britain. Haiti had an important delegation composing of Jacques Stephen Alexis, Jean Price Mars, Gérard Bissainthe, René Depestre, Albert Mangones, Emmanuel C. Paul, R. Piquion, and Emile Saint-Lot.           

Alexis, who had just gained fame for the release of his gut-wrenching novel Compère Général Soleil, seized the moment and the spotlight to present to the world his Prolegomena to a Haitian Marvelous Realism, a historical text that solidified his credentials as a true poet and visionary. Although Roumain died twelve years earlier, his spirit dominated a good part of the proceedings. He was praised by not only the Haitian delegation—especially through Alexis’s presentation—but also by some protagonists of the négritude movement such as Aimé Césaire of Martinique and Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal.           

Jean Price Mars replaced E. W. Dubois in assuming the role of master of ceremony. Dubois, because of his political views, was prevented from leaving the country. Here is what he said in a message sent from New York dated August 30, 1956:  I am not present at your meeting today because the United States government will not grant me a passport for travel abroad. Any Negro-American who travels abroad today must either not discuss race conditions in the United States or say the sort of thing, which our State Department wishes the world to believe. …It would be a fatal mistake if new Africa becomes the tool and cat’s paw of the colonial powers and allows the vast power of the United States to mislead it into investment and exploitation of labor. I trust the black writers of the world [and that they] will understand this and will set themselves to lead Africa toward the light and not backward toward a new colonialism where hand in hand with Britain, France and the United States, black capital enslaves black labor again.”—W. E. B. Du Bois (New York, 30 August 1956)           

In his inaugural address, Senegalese Alioune Diop, publisher of Présence Africaine, a distinguished publishing house which co-sponsored the event, spoke in these terms: “This day will be remembered as a great day. If it can be said that the Bandoeng Conference was the most important event for raising awareness among non-European people since the end of the war, I believe that this first World Congress for Men of Black Culture will be the second major event of this decade….Black people from the United States, the Caribbean, and the African continent, regardless of the distance which sometimes separates our spiritual universes, we definitely have something in common: we all have common ancestors.” And, immediately after saying this, he added: “Skin color is just an accident; this color, however, is responsible for events and intellectual creations, institutions, and ethical laws which have indelibly marked the history of our relations with the white man.” […]           

The event took place at a crucial moment in history, where people of color were being marginalized despite their intellect, their potentials and their undeniable contributions to the advancement of mankind. It was the perfect venue to remind the world of the then forgotten struggles for freedom and independence by many African nations, as well as the South Pacific and the Caribbean. To these days, the congress still holds its historical significance. So, as we are commemorating Roumain’s 100thbirthday, we must reflect upon the legacy left behind by all those who fought and, in some instances, died for freedom of all enslaved peoples of the world. Below is a brief glimpse of who the presenters were.  


Louis Thomas Achille (1909-???)1956 Congress presentation title: “Les ‘Negro Spirituels’ et l’expansion de la culture noire”Louis Thomas Achille was born in Martinique. He was educated in Paris and began to write for publication in 1931, in both French and English. A serious Catholic, Achille often wrote directly upon religious topics, but chiefly focused on racial problems and French colonial subjects. At times he used the pen name Leon Terraud. He wrote for many periodicals in France, including L’Etudiant Martiniquais; La Revue de Monde Noir; and La Revue Anglo-Americaine. He also worked with radio for a time, recording and airing Negro spirituals with the Park Glee Club of Lyon. In 1932 he came to the United States as instructor in the Romance Languages department of Howard University, later becoming Assistant Professor of French. Stateside, Achille exhibited oil paintings at the Howard University Art Gallery and at the National Negro Art exhibition in Atlanta, and contributed to numerous magazines, including the Washington Post, Washington Tribune and the Afro-American.

Jacques-Stephen Alexis (1922-1961) Novelist whose politically committed works made a profound impact on Haitian letters. 1956 Congress presentation title: “Du réalisme merveilleux des Haitiens” Alexis was born into one of Haiti’s literary families. His father, Stéphen Alexis, was the author of Le Nègre masqué (1933) and wrote on the history of Haiti. After finishing his studies at Saint-Louis de Gonzague Institute, Jacques Alexis studied medicine in Port-au-Prince and Paris. He participated in the 1946 revolt in Haiti, and was forced to flee the country for fear of political persecution. He returned clandestinely to the island in 1961, was arrested and is believed to have died in captivity shortly thereafter. Alexis’s first two novels cover the American occupation of Haiti, and paint a complex picture of the psychological, social, and political life of the people of the island. The communist sentiments in his works led to wide translations throughout the USSR during the 1960s. Later writings engaged Haitian folklore and creolized language-a complex synthesis of Haiti’s linguistic, cultural, and political influences.Selected Works:Compère Général Soleil (1955)Les Arbres musiciens (1957)L’Espace d’un cillement (1959)Romancero aux Etoiles (1960)

Edouard Andriantsilaniarivo (1912- ?)1956 Congress presentation title: “The Malagasy of the Twentieth Century”Born in Tanrive, Madagascar, Andriantsilaniarivo became a professor of the liberal arts, whose academic studies and writings focused on language, literature, history, mores and customs in Madagascar. He published in a number of varied journals and reviews, in both French and Malagasy. In addition, he participated in many conferences and produced programming on Madagascar for radio airing.Selected Work:Le Théatre Malgache (1947)

Amadou Hampaté Bâ (1901?-1991)Malian writer, storyteller, historian, and Islamic theologian. 1956 Congress presentation title: “Culture Peuhle”Bâ was born in the town of Bandiagara in Mali. He was sent to French schools in Bandiagara and in Djenné, and continued traditional Islamic education with famed Islamic intellectual Tierno Bokar. Bâ collected and transcribed African tales and fables during the 1920s and 30s, and began writing in earnest in the years to follow. Bâ’s best known work, L’Etrange destin de Wangrin, is an example of how he managed to transform the Western narrative form while preserving important parts of the African oral tradition. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he traveled in the French Sudan (now Mali) and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), accumulating a store of African folktales and epics. He traveled to France for the first time in 1951 on a scholarship from UNESCO. In 1962 he returned to Paris to serve on the executive council of UNESCO, a post he held until 1971.Selected Works:Koumen (1961)Kaïdara (1969)L’Etrange destin de Wangrin (1974; The Fortunes of Wangrin, 1987)Aspects de la civilisation africaine (Aspects of African Civilization, 1972)Jésus vu par un musulman (Jesus as Seen by a Muslim, 1993).

R.P. Gérard Bissainthe (1928- )Priest, former President, University of Port-au Prince, and former Government Minister in Haiti. Chairman of the Forum Francophone International.1956 Congress presentation title: “Le christianisme face aux aspirations culturelles des peuples noirs”

Horace Mann Bond (1904-1972)American educator and university administrator who directed the historical research in support of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. 1956 Congress presentation title: “Reflections, comparative, on West African Nationalist Movements”Born in Nashville, Tennessee to Bond was a precocious child, attending high school at nine years old and Lincoln University, an African American liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, at age 14. Bond earned a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Chicago in 1936. Bond’s scholarly reputation was established with a number of publications dealing with the education and economic status of blacks in America. His “Star Creek Papers” document the progress of public schools in Washington Parish’s Star Creek District, and is considered to offer one of the finest depictions of the Depression-era South. Bond spent many years as an administrator at various black universities and directed research support for the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case, in which school segregation was outlawed. He is the father of Julian Bond, the noted civil rights activist who became chairman of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1998.Selected Works:The Education of the Negro in the American Social Order (1934)Negro Education in Alabama: A Study in Cotton and Steel (1939)

Aimé Césaire (1913- ) Martinique poet, playwright, and political leader, known as a founder of négritude. 1956 Congress presentation title: “Culture et colonization”Born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, Césaire was educated at the école Normale Supérieure and the Sorbonne in Paris, France. While in Paris he met several other black writers, including Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas. Césaire returned to Martinique in the 1940s, where he continued his political and literary activity. For many years he served as mayor of Fort-de-France, Martinique’s capital, and as a deputy in the French National Assembly. In his long poem Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (1939; Return to My Native Land, 1968), Césaire coined the term négritude. The poem quickly became a classic of négritude literature for its exploration of black culture as a valid and independent entity. In this poem and others he also harshly denounces France’s oppression of its colonies’ indigenous cultures. Césaire also wrote several plays that dealt with themes of power, decolonization, and black identity.Selected Works:Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (1939; translated as Return to My Native Land, 1968)Soleil cou-coupé (translated as Sun’s Slashed Throat, 1948)Les armes miraculeuses (translated as Miraculous Weapons, 1946)Discours sur le colonialisme (1950; translated as Discourse on Colonialism, 1972)Toussaint L’Ouverture (1960; translated 1962)Ferrements (translated as Ironwork, 1960)La tragédie du Roi Christophe (1963; translated as The Tragedy of King Christophe, 1969)Une saison au Congo (1966; translated as A Season in the Congo, 1968)Une tempête (1969; translated as A Tempest, 1986). 

Alioune Diop (1910-1980) Senegalese writer and editor, founder of Presence Africaine who became a central figure in the Négritude movement. Principal organizer of the 1956 1st International Congress of Black Writers and Artists. 1956 Congress presentation title: “Discours d’ouverture”Alioune Diop was born in Saint-Louis, Senegal. Schooled at the Lycée Faidherbe in St.-Louis, he then studied in Algeria and at the Sorbonne in Paris. He took a position as professor of classical literature in Paris and represented Senegal in the French senate after World War II. In 1947 Diop founded Présence Africaine, and in 1949 founded Présence Africaine Editions, a leading publishing house for African authors. He later founded the Société Africaine de Culture (1956) and helped organize the first and second International Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris and Rome (1959); the first World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar (1966); and the second Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture in Lagos (1977). Cultural ministers from the sub-Saharan states established a literary prize in Diop’s honor in 1982; the 50th anniversary celebration of Présence Africaine was held in Paris in 1997; and Présence Africaine Editions remains active under the direction of Yandé Christian Diop, his widow. 

Cheikh Anta Diop (1923-1986) Historian, Egyptologist, physicist, linguist, and physical and cultural anthropologist. 1956 Congress presentation title: “Apports et perspectives culturels de l’Afrique”A central figure in African-centered scholarship, Diop first studied at the University of Dakar. He then went to the Sorbonne to continue his education, where he studied a wide range of subjects in the sciences and humanities, including ancient history, archaeology, Egyptology, linguistics, philosophy, and sociology. He became deeply involved in the African independence movement. He was one of the founders of the Association of Students of the African Democratic Assembly (or AFRDA) and also wrote articles for its journal, La Voix de l’Afrique Noire. In addition, he was an organizer of the 1951 First Pan-African Students Conference in Paris. In 1954 Diop’s doctoral dissertation was rejected by the Sorbonne, but published nonetheless in Presence Africaine. Diop later returned to the university and successfully defended his dissertation. Doctorate degree in hand, Diop returned to Senegal and was appointed to the French Institute of Black Africa (IFAN). There he founded the radiocarbon laboratory of Dakar, which specialized in the dating of Africa’s oldest archaeological and geological materials.Throughout his academic career Diop sought to reaffirm the African origin of civilization and the African character of ancient Egypt. In 1971 he was invited to help write the UNESCO General History of Africa, a multivolume, comprehensive history of Africa that became a landmark in Africana studies. Diop later became a professor of history at the University of Dakar, which in 1987 was renamed the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar in his honor.Selected Works:Antériorité des Civilisations Nègres: Mythe or Vérité Historique (1967; The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, 1974)Civilisation ou Barbarie: Anthropologie sans Complaisance (1981; Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology, 1991)

Yandé Christiane Diop Mme Yandé Christiane Diop has been the Director of Presence Africaine Press since her husband died. She is also the General Secretary of the African Community of Culture (CAC). Her desire to pursue her husband’s work provides her with the necessary passion, drive, and inspiration.

Cedric Dover (1904-1961)1956 Congress presentation title: “Culture and creativity”Born in Calcutta, India, Cedric Dover studied intergroup relations (a type of sociology), later researching and teaching in the field as a Professor of Zoology in India and Malaysia and then as visiting professor of anthropology at Fisk University in the United States. He continued his academic work in America as professor of intergroup relations at the New School in New York City. The problems of people of color and the cultural achievements of oppressed peoples were his lifelong concern. He wrote many books in social and ethnic studies, including Half-Caste, Know this of Race, Hell in the Sunshine, Features in the Arrow and Brown Phoenix. Later in life Dover edited an anthology of black art in the United States, American Negro Art (1960). Art historians suggest that the pioneering work of Dover and contemporaries contributed to an understanding of a “black aesthetic” in cultural production.

Thomas Ekollo (1920-1996) Cameroonian pastor and intellectual. 1956 Congress presentation title: ìThe Importance of Culture for Assimilating the Christian Message in Black AfricaîOne of the first ministers of the Evangelical Church of Cameroon, Thomas Ekollo remains a leading figure of Protestantism in Cameroon because of the role he played during the last several decades. He assumed major responsibilities (head of a school in Douala, supervisor of religious education for the Baptist and Evangelical Churches, general director of technical education for the government of Cameroon) and was constantly attempting to solve the problems of contemporary society in his country. He was unafraid of social or ecumenical involvement, and less concerned with the survival of the institution he worked for than with the Evangelical message for which he had come to be known. Ekollo has played a pivotal role in the history and evolution of Evangelical Churches in Africa.Selected Works:Memoires d’un Pasteur Camerounien (2003)

Ben Enwonwu (1921-1994) Nigerian sculptor and painter; Art Adviser to Nigerian government.1956 Congress presentation title: “Problems of the African artist to-day”Born in Onitsha province in Nigeria and schooled in government colleges there before traveling to pursue secondary education in Europe, Benedict Enwonwu grew up to become perhaps the foremost Nigerian artist of his time. In England he studied Fine Art, Aesthetics, History of Western Art and Anthropology and began an artistic career in earnest. Working with diverse media in his painting and sculpture-wood, bronze, metal, plastics, plaster, cement, oil and watercolors-Enwonwu’s work was popular throughout his career, which was brought to international attention when Queen Elizabeth II sat for him at Buckingham Palace in the late 1950s. Enwonwu has exhibited sculpture around the world, at London’s Berkeley galleries (1947), Howard University (1950), the Galerie Apollinaire (1950), the Goethe Institut (1976) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2001). He has written of the political contained in visual art cultures, and was a proponent of using artistic expression to provide local or individual representation, even in the face of Western art forms or techniques.

Frantz Fanon (1925-1961)French West Indian psychiatrist and political theorist whose analyses of colonialism place him among the leading revolutionary thinkers of his time. 1956 Congress presentation title: “Racisme et Culture”Fanon was born in Fort-de-France on the island of Martinique. He attended medical school in Lyon, France, and began a residency in psychiatry. Later living in Algeria, Fanon became an active militant, committed to the cause of Algerian independence. Fanon’s academic writings, begun in earnest during this time, reflect the intellectual influences of his years in France, where he was drawn to the group of black intellectuals associated with Présence Africaine. He was also involved with a cadre of French intellectuals associated with the journal Les Temps Modernes that included Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Fanon’s psychiatric work in Algeria convinced him of a close connection between the individual pathologies of his patients and the nation’s political situation. He concluded that colonialism causes a unique condition in both the colonized and the colonizer, and that the only cure is a revolutionary struggle by the colonized to free themselves from colonial rule. His political writings and discussions of race and colonial social order have garnered him a place among the intellectual makers of modern postcolonial philosophy.Selected Works:Peau noir, masques blancs (1952; Black Skin, White Masks, 1967)Les Damnés de la terre (1961; Wretched of the Earth, 1965).L’An V de la révolution algérienne (A Dying Colonialism, 1967).

William Fontaine (1909-1968)American educator, professor of philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania 1956 Congress presentation title: “Segregation and desegregation in the United States: a philosophical analysis”Born as one of thirteen children in rural Pennsylvania, William Fontaine graduated from Lincoln University in 1930 as president of his class. He went on to do graduate work at Harvard University, the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his doctorate and where, in 1963, he became the first tenured professor in its history. He traveled internationally often during his lifetime, to conferences in Lagos, Dakar and Europe-pursuing the philosophy of culture and seeking to bring the study and uses of philosophy out of a purely academic environment and into the mainstream. He also served as secretary for the American Society of African Culture in the 1960s. In 1970 the University of Pennsylvania established the Fontaine Fellowships in his honor, which provide resources and stipends for black graduate students at the school even today.Selected Works:Fortune, Matter and Providence (1936)Reflections on Segregation, Desegregation, Power and Morals (1967)

Paul Hazoumé (1890- ???)Writer, diplomat, among the first francophone novelists in Africa1956 Congress presentation title: “La révolte des Prêtres”Paul Hazoumé was born in 1890 in Porto-Novo, Dahomey (now Benin). He completed his schooling in Senegal, graduating from l’Ecole Normale de Saint-Louis. He directed operations at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris during the 1930s, and was a delegate from France to UNESCO’s 8th General Conference in Montevideo. He was also Adviser to the Union Francaise, Territorial adviser to Dahomey, and a laureate of the Academie Francaise. Hazoumé’s literary career is also of note. The first black francophone authors, of which Hazoumé was one, often wrote as a counterpoint to the canon of French texts, with an eye to preserving the cultural identity of their nations and denouncing the destructive effects of colonization on African civilizations. Hazoumé’s imaginative reconstitution of the court atmosphere in ancient Dahomey in Doguicimi (1935) represents the first serious effort by an indigenous African to adapt the French language to the African experience in an extended narrative form. It is also considered among the earliest African novels, and allowed African writers since Hazoumé to adopt his union of Western and African narrative traditions in the development of their own national literatures.Selected Works:Doguicimi: The First Dahomean Novel; 1938 

James Ivy (1901- ???)Scholar, translator, editor of the NAACP’s The Crisis1956 Congress presentation title: “The N.A.A.C.P. as an instrument of social change”In 1949, James Ivy assumed the editorship of The Crisis, literary and journalistic organ of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The Crisis was founded in 1910 by W. E. B. Du Bois as “a record of the darker races.” During his tenure, which lasted until 1966, Ivy directed the magazine’s coverage of the Civil Rights Movement and a host of other social issues. He was particularly interested in translation and diasporic black studies. Ivy’s command of multiple languages allowed him to explore and promote the development and sociocultural advancement of colored peoples worldwide. He personally translated a number of articles for The Crisis from the French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Marcus James (??? ) Jamaican clergyman and sociologist.1956 Congress presentation title: “Christianity in the emergent Africa”James was a Jamaican-born priest who obtained his PhD from Oxford University. Anglican clergyman and sociologist; former assistant Chaplain to the University of London; Councillor of Christian Action in Great Britain, an organization of Catholics and Protestants devoted to working on social and international problems. A member of the board of Studies in Race Relations, Royal Institute of International Affairs.

George Lamming (1927- )Barbadian novelist, critic, essayist, and educator.1956 Congress presentation title: “The Negro writer and his world”Born in Carrington Village, Barbados, Lamming won a scholarship to secondary school and met teacher Frank Collymore, also an editor of Bim, the influential new Caribbean literary journal. He encouraged Lamming’s writerly instincts, which developed further when he emigrated to London in 1950-on the same ship as the Trinidadian novelist Samuel Selvon. Lamming wrote poetry and short fiction, which he published in Bim and broadcasted in England through the BBC’s radio program “Caribbean Voices”. When he published In the Castle of My Skin (1953), a largely autobiographical account of a Caribbean childhood in the 1930s and 1940s, Lamming was immediately acclaimed as a brilliant novelist. He continued exploring themes of decolonization, Caribbean national reconstruction, and the Caribbean emigrant experience in many more books over the years. Lamming won several major awards, including a 1955 Guggenheim Fellowship. He moved back to Barbados in 1974, and has since lectured at numerous international universities. His earliest novels still stand out as records of the Caribbean experience, and Lamming continues to be acknowledged as one of the most influential writers in the Caribbean literary tradition.Selected Works:In the Castle of My Skin (1953)The Emigrants (1954)Of Age and Innocence (1958)Season of Adventure (1960)The Pleasures of Exile (1960)Water With Berries (1971)Natives of My Person (1972)Conversations: George Lamming: Essays, Addresses, and Interviews (1990)

Ebenezer Latunde Lasebikan ( ???)Yoruba language specialist.1956 Congress presentation title: “The Tonal Structure of Yoruba Poetry”Born in Ibadan, Lasebikan took special courses in phonetics and linguistics at the School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London. He received his teaching certificate in 1951 and later served as an adviser in the Office of the Commissioner for Western Nigeria, based in London. His area of academic expertise was in Yoruba poetry: its history, sensibility and linguistic structures. He taught for a time in Bahia Country, Brazil, where Yoruba culture, imported ancestrally through the slave trade, is particularly present. He also contributed to the BBC radio program, “West African Voices”.Selected Works:A Yoruba Revision Course (1947)Ojulowo Yoruba (1955)Awom Itan Ere Shakespeares (1955)Learning Yoruba (1958)

Albert Mangones (1917-2002)Haitian sculptor, activist and architect.1956 Congress presentation title: “L’art plastique en Haiti”Born in Haiti and educated in part in Europe and at Cornell University in the United States, Mangones was trained as an engineer and architect, but remained a lifelong advocate for the preservation of the arts and cultures of Haiti. Of the same generation of writers as Jacques Roumain and Jean Price-Mars, Mangones worked alongside them and other artists to establish the still-running Arts Center in Port-au-Prince, where creative types from all disciplines could meet and collaborate, sharing studio space in a supportive environment. As a sculptor himself, Mangones produced a number of works over the years and is probably best known for the statue of Neg Mawon, “Marron Inconnu” or “Freed Slave”, an iconic work that has in recent years become a symbol for freedom and independence across the Caribbean. The American Institute of Architecture honored his achievements in the 1980s. Later, as director of ISPAN (the Institute for the Safeguarding of the National Patrimony), his architectural expertise afforded him the opportunity to preserve buildings and historic sites in Haiti, including the Citadel and Palais Sans Souci in Milot, Province du Nord, and the Old Cathedral in Port-au-Prince.

Davidson (Abioseh) Nicol (1924-1994)Sierra Leonean diplomat, physician, writer and critic.1956 Congress presentation title: “The Soft Pink Palms”Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Davidson Nicol had his early education in Nigeria, and gained a degree in science at Cambridge University in 1946. In the early 1950s he worked as a physician in the UK, and by 1958 had received his Ph.D. Aside from his scientific work, Nicol was active in the journalistic and literary scene of Europe and Africa throughout the century. Nicol was encouraged to write by Langston Hughes, who published one of his first stories in An African Treasury (1960). He also wrote for Encounter magazine, the Economist, the West African Review and Présence Africaine, among numerous others, published several poems, short stories, articles and criticisms-and like many other African writers of the time, aired some of his work on the radio. He taught at the University of Ibadan, was the first Sierra Leonean principal of Fourah Bay College, and was vice-chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone. Nicol was an economic director of UNITAR from 1972 to 1982; he became the first black to be elected a fellow at Cambridge, and represented Sierra Leone as its ambassador in the United Kingdom.Selected Works:The Truly Married Woman (1965)Two African Tales (1965)Africanus Horton and Black Nationalism (1969)New and Modern Roles for Commonwealth and Empire (1976)Nigeria and the Future of Africa (1980)

Emmanuel C. Paul (1914-???)Haitian journalist, Professor at the Institute of Ethnology1956 Congress presentation title: “l’Ethnologie et les cultures noires”Paul was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and worked as a journalist and professor of ethnic studies, publishing in several different reviews and journals, including Bulletins du Bureau d’ethnologie of the Haitian Historical Society, Optique, Le Nouveliste, Haiti-Journal, and Le Jour.Selected Works:Notes sur le folklore Haitien (1946)Essai d’organographie d’Haiti (1947)Culture, Langue, Littérature (1954)Questions d’Histoire (1955)Panorama de Folklore Haitien (1962) 

Jean Price-Mars (1876-1969)Haitian historian, diplomat, politician, and ethnographer who preceded and influenced the Négritude movement.1956 Congress presentation title: “Survivances africaines et dynamisme de la culture noire outré-Atlantique”Born in Grande Rivière du Nord, Haiti, Price-Mars studied medicine, anthropology and political science in Haiti and Paris. He later discovered his oratorical skills while giving a great number of lectures on Haitian culture and politics in the 1910s and 1920s. Price-Mars subsequently split his time between active politics and more intellectual pursuits. He ran twice for president and was appointed ambassador to Paris by François Duvalier in 1957. Price-Mars also wrote on the history of Haiti and on the importance of racial and cultural pride. During the humiliating period of the United States occupation of Haiti (1915-1934), Price-Mars strove in his lectures to remind Haitians of their rich cultural heritage. Though his ideas may seem tame in comparison to those of Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon, they were revolutionary in their time and place.Selected Works:La Vocation de l’élite (1919),Ainsi parla l’Oncle (1928)Une étape de l’évolution haïtienne (1929)De Saint-Domingue à Haïti: essai sur la culture, les arts et la littérature (1959)Silhouette de nègres et de négrophiles (1960). 

Jacques Rabémananjara (1913-2005) Malagasy poet and playwright1956 Congress presentation title: “Europe and Us”Rabémananjara is the Malagasy poet who was the most involved in Présence Africaine. Having living in Paris during World War II as he studied for a Bachelor’s degree in the humanities, he became a close of friend of Alioune Diop, who had always been the very soul of that publication. When he returned to his country, he was convicted of helping to incite the Malagasy rebellion, placed in detention during more than a year, condemned to death, and then, in turn, was subsequently released. During this time, he wrote Antsa, judged to be his best poem, and Lamba, which was published sometime later. These powerful and heartfelt poems elicited so much enthusiasm among Parisian students that Rabémananjara, along with Senghor and Césaire, was frequently cited as one of the three great poets of the Négritude Movement. Unfortunately, his last two plays, Les Dieux malgaches and Les Boutriers de l’aurore, as well as his last anthology,Antidote, did not live up to the promise of his talent as they were considered to be bombastic and too stylistically reminiscent of Verlaine, Césaire, and Eluard.Selected Works:Sur les Marches du soir (1942)Antsa (1947)Les Dieux Malgaches (1947)Lamba (1956)Nationalisme et problème malgache (1958)Antidote (1961)

Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906-2001)Scholar, poet, philosopher, statesman, and president of Senegal, 1960 to 1981.1956 Congress presentation title: “L’esprit de la civilization ou les lois de la culture négro-africaine”Born in Ndjitor, Senegal to a Serer father and a Fulani mother, Senghor has striven to represent all of Senegal’s peoples in his writing and politics. After graduating from secondary school in 1928, Senghor won a scholarship to study at the prestigious école Normale Supérieure in Paris. Senghor wrote his thesis on Charles Baudelaire, and studied the intellectual underpinnings of French political thought between the two world wars. In 1932 Senghor met Aimé Césaire, with whom he co-founded a newspaper, L’étudiant Noir (The Black Student) and with it, a new artistic and intellectual movement, Négritude. He would later say that the philosophy embodies the “sum total of African values of civilization.” Later teaching in French universities, Senghor’s academic and literary career flourished with the publication of several prize-winning volumes of poetry in French. Senghor simultaneously began an impressive political career in French and Senegalese politics. In 1945 and 1946 Senghor was elected to represent Senegal in the French Constituent Assembly, and was elected in 1960 as the first president of Senegal.Selected Works:Chants d’ombre (1945)Hosties noires (1948)Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache (1948)Ethiopiques (1956)Nocturnes (1961)Lettres d’hivernage (1973)Elégies majeures (1979)La poésie de l’action : conversation avec Mohamed Aziza (1980)Ce que je crois (1988)

Abdoulaye Wade (1926- ) Political scientist, current President of Senegal (2000- ).1956 Congress presentation title: “Should Black Africa Develop a Positive Law System?”Born in KÈbÈmer, Senegal, Wade was educated in elementary school in Senegal but, after receiving a scholarship, went to high school in Paris where he studied both beginning and advanced mathematics. He then studied in various French universities and obtained a Ph.D. in Law and Economics. He was a trial attorney for a few years in BesanÁon, and then returned to Senegal to open his own law firm and became a lecturer at the University of Dakar. He later achieved the status of a tenured law professor. As a consultant, he assisted the Organization of African Unity and the African Development Bank. He also founded a political party, the P.D.S (Parti DÈmocratique SÈnÈgalais), in 1974. Subsequently, he occupied the position of secretary general of the party and was elected deputÈ in 1978. He unsuccessfully campaigned four times to be elected President and was Government Minister twice during the 1990s. In March of 2000, his fifth bid to become President was successful. He defeated the incumbent President, Abdou Diouf, in the second round. In addition,he wrote various books and publications, including “Un destin pour l’Afrique”, “Economie de l’Ouest africain” and “UnitÈ et croissance.” 

Richard Wright (1908-1960)American writer, whose novels and short stories helped redefine discussions of race relations in America in the mid-20th century.1956 Congress presentation title: “Tradition and industrialization. The plight of the tragic elite in Africa”Raised mostly by relatives outside of Natchez, Mississippi, Richard Wright left school at the age of 17. During the Great Depression, Wright worked on various writing and editing projects for the Federal Writers’ Project in Chicago. His first book, Uncle Tom’s Children (1938; revised 1940) won first prize in a writing competition sponsored by the Project. Wright later moved to New York City where he continued producing fiction. A 1939 Guggenheim Fellowship allowed Wright to complete his most famous novel, Native Son. The book explores the violent psychological pressures that drive Bigger Thomas, a young black man, to murder. The book was an immediate sensation with white and black readers, winning him wide appeal and provoking criticisms over its socialist bent. Wright had joined the Communist Party in Chicago, and remained an active member before leaving over ideological issues in the 1940s. Wright moved to France in the late 1940s, publishing several more novels and works of nonfiction during his lifetime. His first autobiographical work, Black Boy (1945), reveals in bitter personal terms the devastating impact of racial prejudice on young black males in the United States. Wright publicly opposed racism and was perhaps the most eloquent spokesperson in the United States for his generation of blacks.

Note:The picture above featured the panelists at the opening Ceremony in the Amphithéâtre Descartes. From left to right: Jacques Rabemananjara, Richard Wright, Alioune Diop (standing), Dr. Jean Price-Mars, Paul Hazoume, Aime Cesaire, Emile Saint-Lot, Jacques Alexis, Paris. (1956, Roger-Viollet Collection)

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