The essay Wilfredo Lam : Painter of Negritude by Robert Linsley was particularly interesting to be because freshman year I wrote two research papers that concerned Negritude.  I wrote about three of the most famous poets, Léon Damas, Aimé Césaire, et Léopold Senghor.  However I was unaware that there was a visual aspect of Negritude that accompanied the poetic movement.  What I find enthralling about Negritude as a movement is the artists reclaiming of their history through the oppressor’s voice.  

On a more contemporary note, the final sentence of page 290 “…[Césaire] had to confront the history of slavery and miserable and defeated condition of his fellow Antillean Blacks:” reminded me of Christopher Jackson and Daveed Diggs, the actors who played the original George Washington and Tomas Jefferson in Hamilton on Broadway.  In the Hamilton documentary that aired on PBS last fall it goes through a little of Jackson’s and Diggs’ struggle to come to terms as black men portraying men that had owned slaves.  The situation is different, yet it still black artists that had to digest the horrors of slavery that that decimated their race for centuries and turn it into art.  Césaire writes “My mouth shall be the mouth of those calamities that have no mouth, my voice the freedom of those who break down in solitary confinement of despair.”  The final number  “Who Tells Your Story” the character Eliza Hamilton sings about what she has done to further her husband and other’s legacy.  She sings “I raise funds in D.C. for the Washington Monument.”  Washington (Jackson) responds “She tells my story.”  Eliza continues, ” I speak out against slavery.”  It is a small gesture, but to these words in performances Jackson would bow his head and step a little out of the spotlight to signify that while a great man Washington did little to end slavery and owned slaves himself.  While it has been more than 150 years since slavery ended in America and more than 70 since Césaire wrote his Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, this small example shows that slavery is something that black artists still must come to terms with.

References: Christopher Jackson’s interview by Vanityfair

Katelyn Kiner – Hope College – 2017


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