On June 26, 2013, the Toni Morrison Society placed a Bench by the Road in Fort-de-France, Martinique in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth Aimé Césaire. The bench placement represents one of the keystone events in the year-long celebration and commemoration of Aimé Césaire in Martinique, France and throughout the world.
Born in Basse-Pointe, June 26, 1913, Aimé Césaire was an early proponent of black pride, dedicating his life to the struggle against colonialism and its racial stereotypes and the fight to bring French overseas territories, including Martinique, equal status as regions of France.
The Bench by the Road Project of the Toni Morrison Society is a memorial history project established by the Society to honor an individual, place, or event that is of great importance in the history of Black people who are part of the African Diaspora. The Project was launched in 2006 on the occasion of the 75th Birthday of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison. Since 2006, the Society has placed nine benches in various locations including Sullivan’s Island off the cost of South Carolina, which was the point of entry for 40 percent of enslaved Africans who came to North America, the city of Oberlin in Ohio, which was part of the Underground Railroad, and Paris, in honor of Louis Delgres, a French general and freedom fighter for Guadeloupe.
The Bench in honor of Aimé Césaire is the 10th Bench placement by the Society. As stated on the bench plaque in his honor to be unveiled on June 26th: “This Bench placed in honor of the 100th birthday of Aimé Césaire, son of Martinique and world renowned poet, playwright, author, teacher, anti-colonialist, and political leader.”
“Everyone in Martinique is looking forward to the inauguration of the bench by the road dedicated to Aimé Césaire,” said Muriel Wiltord, director Americas for the Martinique Promotion Bureau /CMT USA. “It is truly a great honor.”
In 1935, Césaire was admitted to the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris and was one of the principal architects of the Negritude Movement, the affirmation of a black and African Diaspora culture and heritage. Césaire’s most famous poem, Cahier D’un Retour au Pays Natal, was published in 1939. From 1945 to 2001, Césaire served as Mayor of Fort- de-France and served in the French National Assembly from 1946 to 1993 as Deputy.
Césaire passed away on April 17, 2008 in Fort-de-France. In 2011, a plaque bearing his name was placed in the Pantheon of Paris, where some of France’s most revered citizens are buried including Victor Hugo, Pierre and Marie Curie, Victor Shoelcher, Jean Moulin and André Malraux.
Aimé Césaire was a true champion of people of the Antilles, Africa, and the entire African diaspora. His words and his voice left a profound impression on all people, and his life serves as an inspiration to artists and activists around the world.
For more on the Bench by the Road project visit www.tonimorrisonsociety.org