Césaire, Aimé (Aimé Fernand Césaire) [key], 1913–2008, West Indian poet and essayist who wrote in French. After studying in Paris he became concerned with the plight of blacks in what he considered a decadent Western society. With Léopold Senghor and Léon Damas he formulated the concept of négritude, which urged blacks to reject assimilation and cultivate consciousness of their own racial qualities and heritage. Césaire voiced this idea through poetry, collected in such volumes as Les armes miraculeuses (1946) and Ferrements (1960) and in the essay Discours sur le colonialisme (1950, tr. 1972). In addition to his literary output, which comprises poetry, plays, and historical essays on black leaders, Césaire helped Martinique shed the colonialism he abhorred and become (1946) a French overseas department. He held a number of government positions, including that of mayor (1945–83, 1984–2001) of Martinique's capital, Fort-de-France, and also was a member (1946–56, 1958–93) of France's National Assembly.
See his Collected Poetry (tr. 1984); studies by S. Frutkin (1973), A. J. Arnold (1981, repr. 2000), R. L. Scharfman (1987), and G. Davis (1997).
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