Leon-Gontran Damas (1912-1978)

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Leon-Gontran Damas (1912-1978) was the author of six books of poetry, three books of essays, and one book of short stories. He was born in France, where he and friends Aimé Césaire and Leopold Senghor published L’Etudiant Noir (The Black Student), a literary journal that helped ignite the Négritude Movement. This movement focused on bringing notice to Black culture instead of giving in to Western cultural domination and was made up of French-speaking intellectuals of African descent.

He served in the French Army during WWII and served as a Guyanese deputy of the French National Assembly. He traveled throughout America, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean giving lectures and also worked for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (or UNESCO) as a representative for Societe Africaine de Culture (Society of African Culture). He was overseas editor for Radio France as well.

After publishing his first book of poetry, Pigments, Damas went on to join the editorial team for the journal Presence Africaine (African Presence), an extremely respected Black journal. He then moved to Washington, D.C. to teach at Georgetown University, Federal City College, then at Howard University while writing his last book of poetry, Mine de Rien (Casually). While at Howard University, he was the acting director of the African Studies Program and Distinguished Professor of African Literature. Damas is known for integrating some African roots of Caribbean language and rhythm into his native tongue (French) in his poetry, making it a unique and powerful cultural statement.

http://washingtonart.com/beltway/damas.html AND http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A9on_Damas#Works Beltway Poetry Quarterly, "Leon-Gontran Damas: Reclaiming Identity" by Myra Sklarew, Volume 9:3, Summer 2008: http://washingtonart.com/beltway/damas.html

Written by Word Works intern Monica Root October 2013

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