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Mon, 10.12.1896

Paulette Nardal, Author, and Activist born

Paulette Nardal

*Paulette Nardal was born on this date in 1896. She was an Afro-Caribbean activist, author, and journalist.

Born into the upper-middle class in Martinique, West Indies, Nardal became a teacher and completed her education in Paris. She was the first black person to study at the Sorbonne in 1920 and, with her sister Jeanne Nadal, established an influential literary salon, Le Salon de Clamart, which explored the experiences of the African diaspora.

As a journalist and author, she published works that advocated Pan-Africanism and acknowledged the similarities of challenges faced by people due to racism and sexism. Though an ardent feminist, she was not radical, encouraging women to work within the existing social structures to achieve political influence. At the beginning of World War II, Nardal fled France but was injured when a submarine attacked her ship, causing a lifelong disability. Returning to Martinique, she established feminist organizations and newspapers encouraging educated women to channel their energies into social improvement.

She sponsored home economic training and founded nursery schools for impoverished women. Because of her understanding of issues facing the populations of the Caribbean, she worked as an area specialist at the United Nations. Nardal was the first black woman to hold an official post in the Division of Non-Self-Governing Territories at the UN.  When she returned to Martinique after her UN position, she worked to preserve the country's musical traditions. She wrote a history of traditional music styles for the centennial celebration of the abolition of slavery on the island.

She developed a choir that celebrated the African roots of the music of Martinique. In the post-World War II period, Paulette Nardal was a delegate to the United Nations in 1946. She worked in the Division of Non-Self-Governing Territories. She returned to Martinique in 1948, and in the 1950s and 1960s, she supported Dr. Martin Luther King's campaign for American Civil Rights.

She was one of the drivers of the development of black literary consciousness. She was one of the authors involved in creating the Négritude genre and introduced French intellectuals to the works of members of the Harlem Renaissance through her translations. Paulette Nadal, who never married, died in Fort-de-France, Martinique, on February 16, 1985. She was 88.

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