One hundred years ago, Marcel Manville was born in Trinité in Martinique. This lawyer, friend of Frantz Fanon and founder of MRAP, fought against racism and colonialism. He defended Palestinians, West Indians, Algerian separatists and many others.
On July 18, 1922, a hundred years ago, an extraordinary personality was born in Martinique: Marcel Manville, the only boy in a family of nine children. His father Marius Manville, a jeweler by training, was secretary general of the town hall of Trinité as well as socialist general councilor of the canton. Died very young, he left behind a family in great difficulty. The big sister teacher of Marcel Manville had to help his mother to raise all the siblings.
Marcel Manville studied at the Schœlcher high school where Aimé Césaire taught. And it was on the benches of this famous establishment that he met Frantz Fanon, future psychiatrist and author of Black skin, white masks. In 1943, at age 21, he decided to enlist in the resistance army with his friend Frantz Fanon. Both then left for Morocco and took part in the landing in Provence in August 1944. After the war, Marcel Manville followed accelerated studies in law in Paris. “At that time, Frantz Fanon and Marcel Manville who had fought for the mother country had the impression of being considered second-class Frenchmen. And that’s when they became revolutionary”says George Pau-Langevin who worked for three years alongside Marcel Manville in his law firm in the 1970s.
Marcel Manville made the decision to join the French Communist Party, then in 1949 with Albert Lévy, he founded the MRAP, the Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples. As a lawyer, he was very involved in the case of the 16 from Basse Pointe considered the first trial of French colonialism in the West Indies. On September 6, 1948, during a strike, a white Creole administrator Guy Fabrique Saint-Tours was assassinated. Sixteen cane cutters have been charged with this murder. Imprisoned in Martinique for three years, they were tried in 1951 in Bordeaux and were all acquitted, for lack of evidence. For their defense, the PC as well as the MRAP had found them 11 lawyers including Marcel Manville. The trial was highly publicized.
In 1955, with his friend Frantz Fanon, Marcel Manville committed himself in favor of the independence of Algeria and he became one of the lawyers of the separatists. In 1962, the OAS (the Secret Army Organization) attempted to assassinate the lawyer by plastic-laying his Parisian home in 1961.”I know I was sent to my grandparentsreports his son Yves Manville who was then only two years old, because my parents were receiving threats from the OAS. (…) My mother saw the smoking bomb on the landing and she knew what to do. The technique was to open everything. Three Algerian maquisards who had just left prison were there. They opened the windows and got down on their stomachs. The drawer in the front door was found in the school across the street. The landing collapsed, but fortunately no one was killed or injured.”, adds Yves Manville. Marcel Manville was not at his home at 19 rue Vernier in Paris that day.
From 1960 to 1970, the lawyer, despite intimidation, did not stop fighting to defend the Algerian separatists and participated in numerous trials in Bône in 1955 or in Constantine in 1957 in the midst of the Algerian war. During these passages, he found his comrade in arms Frantz Fanon. “It was very hard trialssays George Pau-Langevin. At that time in Algeria, the lawyer came to plead, and when the court sentenced the defendants to death, he had to attend the sentence.. In 1960 with Édouard Glissant, Marcel Manville founded the Antillean-Guyanese Front for Autonomy, dissolved the same year by General de Gaulle. Which earned him a long ban on staying in Martinique.
As a lawyer for MRAP, Marcel Manville has defended Palestinians, members of the Black Panthers and many West Indians. George Pau-Langevin, François Hollande’s former overseas minister, remembers the years she spent as an intern in Marcel Manville’s cabinet. “It was very folkloric. I had my office in her son’s roomshe recalls. His office was at his home. He defended all the revolutionaries on the planet, but he was also the lawyer for hospital workers and modest West Indian civil servants..
In 1977, the lawyer decided to return to his native country, leaving his wife and three children in Paris. On his return to Martinique, the lawyer chose to get involved in the Martinican Communist Party and then in 1984, he founded the PKLS (Communist Party for the Independence of Martinique). “He found the PC not revolutionary enough so he created a party to the left of the PC to create the conditions for the independence of Martinique”specifies George Pau-Langevin.
From 1982, Marcel Manville devoted a lot of time and energy to defending and making known the work of his friend Frantz Fanon by creating and presiding over the Frantz Fanon circle. Ten years later, the lawyer organized a lawsuit against Christopher Columbus at the courthouse in Fort-de-France. Precursor of the Taubira law of 2001 which he considered “positive but insufficient“, he was one of the lawyers in charge of investigating a request before the UN for the recognition of slavery as a crime against humanity. Marcel Manville also fought for Haiti, which for a long time had to pay indemnities to France in compensation for the expropriation of slave owners during independence be compensated.
Marcel Manville died of a heart attack at the Paris courthouse on December 2, 1998. He was going to plead against the prefect Papon in memory of the Algerian victims of the October 1961 massacre in Paris. For his son Yves, “he had a good death, because he often said: “Defending on the stand until the last minute, that is my objective”. His burial in Trinité on December 12, 1998 took place in the presence of Aimé Césaire and almost all of the Bar of Martinique and delegations from Guadeloupe, Haiti, Algeria and Palestine. “It was very impressive“, remembers his son. Full of admiration for his father, Yves Manville is a diplomat. He was posted in particular in Iran, Afghanistan and today in Pakistan to represent France. Even if he did not espoused exactly the same ideas as his father, the diplomat believes that Marcel Manville fought very just battles.