Négritude was a literary and then a political movement that developed from the 1930s by a number of intellectuals from French African backgrounds, the most wellknown proponents being Aimé Césaire from Martinique, Leopold Sédar Senghor from Senegal, and Léon Damas from French Guiana. They saw the common African heritage as a uniting force against the French colonial system and the inherent racism in French rule.
The original ideas of négritude drew from the Harlem Renaissance and were influenced by the works of African Americans such as Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and James Weldon Johnson. These ideas were distilled by Aimé Césaire in the third issue of the journal L'Étudiant Noir, the word négritude being used for the first time.
The magazine was established in Paris by Césaire and two other students, Leopold Senghor and Léon Damas, and became a focus for the concept of a united heritage of the black diaspora in the French colonies; a similar movement, negrismo, was used to describe the same ideas in former Spanish colonies.
After World War II, the concept of négritude became a powerful force, with Césaire being elected as mayor of Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, and then to the French chamber of deputies.
In 1948 Jean-Paul Sartre endorsed the ideas of négritude in an essay called Orphée Noir (Black Orpheus), which was published as an introduction to an anthology of African poetry compiled by Léopold Senghor, who was urging for independence for Senegal. He became its first president, remaining in office from 1960 until 1980. In 1958 the French film Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) was released, set around the Rio de Janeiro carnival.
Sartre idealized négritude as a more powerful force than that of French colonial racism, but the négritude concept became criticized in the 1960s with some subsequent African scholars and political thinkers feeling that it never went far enough, as it defined the French African diaspora more by what it was against than standing by its own values. Nevertheless, it remained an important development in political thinking in the period of decolonization.