Poet Aimé Césaire on abolition of slavery by France

This video is called In memory of Aimé Césaire.

This week, the famous poet and anti-racist Aimé Césaire died.

From French daily L’Humanité:

Humanité’s back pages

Translated Wednesday 23 April 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Humanité.fr is reprinting an article published in l’Humanité on April 28, 1948, which relates the speech made by “Comrade Aimé Césaire” at the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the French colonies.

Slavery Was Abolished One Hundred Years Ago.

At the Sorbonne, our comrade Aimé Césaire paid homage to Victor Schoelcher, who freed the slaves.

The official commemoration of the April 27, 1848 abolition of slavery by the government of the Second Republic in all the territories under French control was held at the Sorbonne yesterday evening. The French president, Mr. Vincent Auriol, honored the ceremony with his presence. The presidents of the Assemblies, the ministers, Academicians and many personalities in politics, letters and the fine arts were also present. Speeches were made by the minister of National Education, Depreux, the president of the Council of the Republic, Mr. Monnerville, and by the Socialist deputy Senghor.

The freedom of the slaves, a victory of the French people.

Our comrade Aimé Césaire, deputy for Martinique, underlined the immense significance of the abolition of slavery and showed that it had been won by the struggle of the French people for freedom and social justice.

“Around 1848,” Aimé Césaire stated, “for slavery to be abolished at a precise moment in French history, more than a wave of goodwill on the part of a few people was required – it took the revolutionary combination of the will of a people and the inflexible clearsightedness of a policy.”

And our comrade paid homage to the people of Paris in these terms:

“They subsisted in the attics and the cellars described by Villermé, without a fire to heat or cook, without meat, often without bread, but in their deepest poverty, they found, even amid this suffering, enough grandeur, enough generosity to have a thought of affectionate solidarity for others even more oppressed than they – the thousands of Negro slaves on tiny islands, thousands of miles distant from France.

“Victor Schoelcher realized what the people had prepared. A sociologist, economist, ethnographer and polemicist, Victor Scholcher was also a defender of human dignity his whole life long.”

And our comrade quoted this declaration by Schoelcher, in which he denounced the exploitation of which the black slaves were victims.

“If, as the colonists say, agriculture can only be pursued in the Caribbean with slaves, then it is necessary to abandon the Caribbean. Using slavery to maintain colonies is the policy of brigands. A criminal act must not be a necessity. The death of the colonies is preferable to the death of a principle.”

A speech by Aimé Césaire: Négritude, Africa and Black History (Miami, 1987): here.

2 thoughts on “Poet Aimé Césaire on abolition of slavery by France

  1. Pingback: Dutch slave trade, new study | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Banjo, by Claude McKay, book review | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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