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Martinique: Racism and the Front Popular in Martinique

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 November 1990
Citation / Document Symbol MTQ0486
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Martinique: Racism and the Front Popular in Martinique, 1 November 1990, MTQ0486, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


"There is growing concern in Martinique over the extent of racism in that society...." so begins an article from the May 1988 Caribbean Contact News paper from Barbados. [ "Martinique Counters Racism", Caribbean Contact [Bridgetown, Barbados], 1988), p. 6.] The roots of racial divisions in Martinique stem from the 1660's when the then indigenous white population (known as 'Béké') was soon outnumbered by the black slave population brought over from West Africa. The mixed black-white offspring from the colonial period have produced a third phenotypical group of mulattos or 'mulâtre'. "Contemporary Martinique society still bears traces of this tripartite division, whereby land is owned by Békés, the liberal professions are occupied by the lighter skinned mulattos, and the lower classes are largely composed of the dark skinned blacks." [ William F.S. Miles, Elections and Ethnicity in French Martinique, (New York: Praeger Press, 1986), p. 6.] William Milles in his work on Martinique Elections and Ethnicity in French Martinique, 1986, found that in 1976 the civil service was made up of 92% Martinique born personnel and there had been a tendency to employ the "French from France" or 'white' civil servants in the highest posts and relatively highest salary categories. [ Ibid., pp. 153-4.] This structure has undergone an intentional change since the Mitterand government has come to power (in 1980) and enforced the merit system (ie. seniority etc.) as the major criteria used to fill these top jobs. [ Ibid., p. 155.] Pages 244-46 of W. Miles book are attached and focus on the importance of race in Martinique. There are no sources which specifically discuss racism by the minority white population in Martinique.

IRB Ottawa has been unable to find any reference to the Front Popular. We have attached the section on political violence in Martinique as well as relevant sections on political parties which gives some background on at least one movement which takes a radical stand against white racism in Martinique.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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