Négritude was both a literary and ideological movement, led by French-speaking black writers and intellectuals. The movement is marked by several important ideas:
Its founders (or les trois pères), Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Léon-Gontran Damas, met while studying in Paris in 1931 and began to publish the first journal devoted to Negritude, L’Étudiant noir (The Black Student), in 1934.
The term "Négritude" was coined by Césaire in his Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, 1939) and it means, in his words, "the simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture."
Césaire's first work is notable for its disavowal of assimilation as a valid strategy for resistance and for its reclamation of the word "nègre" as a positive term. "Nègre" previously had been almost exclusively used in a pejorative sense, much like the English word "nigger." Césaire deliberately and proudly incorporated this derogatory word into the name of his movement.
Even in its beginnings Négritude was truly an international movement--drawing inspiration from the flowering of African-American culture brought about by the writers and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance while asserting its place in the canon of French literature, glorifying the traditions of the African continent, and attracting participants in the colonized countries of the Caribbean, North Africa, and Latin America.
The movement’s sympathizers included French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Roumain, founder of the Haitian Communist party. The movement would later find a major critic in Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian playwright and poet, who believed that a deliberate and outspoken pride in their color placed black people continually on the defensive, saying notably "Un tigre ne proclâme pas sa tigritude, il saute sur sa proie," or "A tiger doesn’t proclaim its tigerness; it jumps on its prey." Négritude remained an influential movement throughout the rest of the 20th century, and is one of the driving forces behind things like the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, the Black Arts Movement in the U.S., and the Black Power Movement in the U.S.