Frantz Fanon

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Frantz Fanon
BornJuly 20, 1925
Fort-de-France, Martinique, French West Indies
DiedDecember 6, 1961 (aged 36)
Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Cause of deathLeukemia
Known forBlack Skin, White Masks, The Wretched of the Earth

Frantz Fanon (July 20, 1925 – December 6, 1961) was a psychiatrist, anti-colonial political theorist, author, and revolutionary from the Caribbean island of Martinique. He is the author of various works including Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961).

Born as a colonial French subject, he eventually travelled to France for his education in psychiatry.

In the latter portion of his life, he was involved with the Algerian National Liberation Front (French: Front de Libération Nationale; FLN) in the Algerian independence struggle against the French.[1] He also worked in Tunisia with Algerian independence forces, and served as the Ambassador to Ghana for the Provisional Algerian Government. He passed away in 1961, after being diagnosed with leukemia.[2]

Fanon's political thought deals heavily with the implications and consequences of colonization, focusing considerably on anti-colonial struggles of his time as well as on the effects of colonization on the human psyche.

In 1953, Fanon was named the Head of the Psychiatry Department of the Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria. There, via his patients, Fanon gained increased insight into the torture and brutality ongoing under French rule. In 1956, Fanon resigned from his position to struggle for Algerian independence.[2][3] He documented French atrocities for the French and Algerian media.[4] According to Fanon, the only way for anti-colonial governments to prevent military coups is to politically educate the army and create civilian militias.[5]

Early Life and Education

Early life (1925-1943)

One of eight children, Frantz Fanon was born on the 20 July 1925 in Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique (then a French colony and later a département). His father, Casimir Fanon was a minor customs official, his mother Elanore Fanon kept a shop. Most of the Fanon family was educated; five of the children went to France for higher education. By the standards of the white creoles or békés (descendants from the original plantation-owners and white businessmen), the family was not wealthy, but the Fanon’s were prosperous enough to employ domestic help and to pay for piano lessons for Frantz’s sisters.[6] Fanon attended Lycée Victor Schoelcher in Fort-de-France and gained a reputation as an avid reader and keen footballer. Joby, two years older, shared Frantz’s bed, friends and passion for football. But Joby and Frantz were also members of a gang; again Frantz was the dominant figure, organising petty misdemeanours and scuffles with rivals[7], something attested to by Fanons relatives.[6] As Fanon grew into adolescence, his interest in football waned. He spent hours every week in the public library, reading French literature and philosophy. Pupils were taught that they were French and European[7].

The war declared in 1939 led to panic in Martinique: schools closed and trenches were dug, precautions for air raids that did not come. Frantz and Joby were sent to their uncle Edouard Fanon, a teacher, in the countryside. After two years, the school was reopened. This school was at the time the most prestigious high school in Martinique, where Fanon came to admire one of the school's teachers, poet and writer Aimé Césaire. They met in 1940, where he was known for his epic poem Cahier d’un retour au pays natal.[7]

Fanon’s great-grandfather was the son of a slave. He owned land on the Atlantic coast and grew cocoa. Fanon’s mother, Éléonore, was born to unmarried parents. Her father’s white predecessors were said to have come from Strasburg, Austria; the name ‘Frantz’ was said to reflect this distant European ancestry.[7]His parents encouraged him to speak French instead of creole, the language of the “lower” classes, in his interaction with the larger society[8]. This was common practice in Antillian society at the time,creole being percieved as a simplified "Negro-french".[7] Fanon writes:

"The middle class in the Antilles never speak Creole except to their servants. In school the children of Martinique are taught to scom the dialect. One avoids Creolisms. Some families completely forbid the use of Creole, and mothers ridicule their children for speaking it."[9]

Martinique at the time had a population of 43,000 (1925). Sugar production had gradually become less profitable. Agricultural wage-labourers attempted to find work in the docks and coal depot, as there was a agricultural crisis. The town centre became home to shopkeepers, lawyers and doctors. Easily eradicable diseases where prevalent, including elephantiasis, tuberculosis and leprosy; only in the 1950s was malaria eradicated.[7] Fanon describes Martinique's "racial structure" as follows:

"In Martinique it is rare to find hardened racial positions. The racial problem is covered over by economic discrimination and, in a given social class, it is above all productive of anecdotes. Relations are not modified by epidermal accentuations . . . In Martinique, when it is remarked that this or that person is in fact very black, this is said without contempt, without hatred. One must be accustomed to what is called the spirit of Martinique in order to grasp the meaning of what is said."[8]

He also writes in Black Skins White Masks:

At the age of twenty-at the time, that is, when the collective unconscious has been more or less lost, or is resistant at least to being raised to the conscious level-the Antillean recognizes that he is living an error. Why is that? Quite simply because-and this is very important-the Antillean has recognized himself as a Negro, but, by virtue of an ethical transit, he also feels {collective unconscious) that one is a Negro to the degree to which one is wicked, sloppy, malicious, instinctual. Everything that is the opposite of these Negro modes of behavior is white. This must be recognized as the source of Negrophobia in the Antillean. In the collective unconscious, black =ugliness, sin, darkness, immorality. In other words, he is Negro who is immoral. If I order my life like that of a moral man, I simply am not a Negro. Whence the Martinican custom of saying of a worthless white man that he has "a nigger soul". Color is nothing, I do not even notice it, I know only one thing, which is the purity of my conscience and the whiteness of my soul. "Me white like snow," the other said."[10]

World War II and Martinique (1943-1945)

After the fall of France in 1940, power in Martinique was concentrated in the hands of Admiral Robert, Commander of the West Atlantic Fleet and High Commissioner for the West Indian colonies since August 1939. Although the mayors of Martinique were ready to rally to De Gaulle’s call for resistance, Robert’s sympathies were with the collaborationist Vichy Government. The island was therefore blockaded by the Allies until 1943. Food shortages, inflation and a housing crisis were the result of the presence of the thousands of troops and sailors now on the island. The french navy was widely percieved as a racist occupation force, and their expeditions to requisition food led to open conflict between french soldiers and the people from Martinique. The békés supported Robert, wheras many Antillians supported de Gaulle. Some Antillians (labelled "dissidents") therefore attempted to voyage to Dominica, a English colony, to join the "Free French Forces". Among them was Fanon, who on his third attempt managed to reach Dominica, but could not enlist as Robert was overthrown in 1943 and replaced by a pro-Gaulle government. Fanon thereupon returned to Fort-de-France, and enlisted in the Fifth Infantry Batallion, which consisted of 1,200 black volunteers. In late 1943, Fanon sailed for basic military training in North Africa (including Algeria).

Fanon was part of the invasion force that landed near Toulon in August 1944 and then pushed north along the Napoleonic Road through the Alps and into Alsace. In November 1944 he was wounded while reloading a mortar, mentioned in dispatches and decorated with the Croix de Guerre for his bravery under fire.[6]

Fanon noted that it seemed to be black troops who were sent into combat first. The Martiniquans maintained their peculiar rank, neither natives nor complete Frenchmen, but as they progressed north the army made the decision to ‘whiten’ the division. Fanon entered the war with a sense of France’s imperfection but also illusions of justice in an empire and nation indivisible. He would return with these ideas thoroughly destroyed[7]:

"If I don’t come back, and if one day you should hear that I died facing the enemy, console each other, but never say: he died for the good cause. [. . .] This false ideology that shields the secularists and the idiot politicians must not delude us any longer. I was wrong!"[7]

He further elaborates in Black Skin, White Masks:

"When I was in military service I had the opportunity to observe the behavior of white women from three or four European countries when they were among Negroes at dances. Most of the time the women made involuntary gestures of flight, of withdrawing. their faces filled with a fear that was not feigned. And yet the Negroes who asked them to dance would have been utterly unable to commit any act at all against them, even if they had wished to do so"[11]

Martinique and France (1945-1953)

After returning to Martinique in the fall of 1945, where he focused on completing his secondary education, Fanon studied under Césaire and became very close to him both intellectually and politically. In addition to absorbing his literary work and poetry, Fanon took part in Césaire’s successful campaign to be elected to the French parliament as a member of the Communist Party. Fanon did not, however, share Césaire’s enthusiasm for France’s decision (in 1946) to transform Martinique from a colony to a département (Département d’outre-mer) of France. He also thought that the urbane Césaire did not have a good understanding of rural Martinicans.[8]

Fanon wanted to continue his education, and looked abroad as Martinique did not have a University. The legislation adopted in August 1945 provided him with the possibility; student grants were now available for war veterans, and Fanon left for France to study dentisty in Paris.[6] He quickly changed to Medicine and enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine in Lyon in 1947.[8] In his fifth year, he opted to study psychiatry rather than general medicine. He also took an interest in theatre, and wrote three plays in 1949 - of which only two survive: The Drowning Eye (L’Oeil se noie), and Parallel Hands (Les Mains parallèles) whereas the third remains lost (La Conspiration)[12] - gave talks on surrealism and poetry to student societies, and edited a magazine entitled Tam-tam, but no copies of that short-lived publication have survived.

He also enrolled in the Philosophy Department at the School of Liberal Arts. He attended courses taught by Merleau-Ponty and by Andre Leroi-Gourhan. His interests ran to ethnology, phenomenology, and Marxism, but existentialism and psychoanalysis were his main interests. Fanon was an avid reader with wide-ranging reading habits: Levi-Strauss, Mauss, Heidegger, Hegel, as well as Lenin and the young Marx. In Paris he formed relationships with people who had deep political commitments and who helped pique his interest in Marxist methodology, but he never developed a need for clearcut political affiliations. He was especially drawn to psychoanalytical works and to Sartre. He read Freud as well as the handful of works by Jacques Lacan that were available at the time.[13]

Despite his many extra-curricular activities, Fanon successfully completed his degree in 1951.[6]

In 1948 Fanon started a relationship with Michelle, a medical student, who soon became pregnant. She later gave birth to Mireille Fanon Mendés-France, who he regocnized as his daughter and kept contact to. He left his partner for an 18-year-old high school student, Josie, whom he married in 1952. Fanon never learned to type and one of the couple’s first collaborations involved Josie typing the first drafts of Black Skin, White Masks. For the rest of Fanon’s life, Josie was his companion and collaborator; after his death she remained in Algeria until her suicide in 1989. In February 1947, Fanon heard that his father had died.

He was reputedly close to the local PCF branch, though never a member, but participated in its anti-colonial demonstrations.[14] Fanon had, since his university years, already been involved in the anti-colonial struggle; he belonged to the inner circle at Presence africaine, and he had been a close and attentive reader of the many issues Temps modernes had devoted to the colonial situation.[13]

Frantz Fanon published Black Skins, White Masks in 1952. Originally conceived in 1951 as a medical dissertation, entitled "Essay on the Disalienation of the Black"[13], it was swiftly rejected by his professors as defying all known thesis protocols.[14] Fanon therefore submitted a classical thesis on Friedrich’s disease, entitled "Altérations mentales, modifications caractérielles, troubles psychiques et déficit intellelectuel dans Thérédo-dégénération spino-cérébelleuse: à propos d'un cas de maladie de Fried avec délire de possession"[6], and published Black Skins, White Masks as a book. After receiving Fanon's manuscript at Seuil, Francis Jeanson (leader of the pro-Algerian independence Jeanson network) invited him to an editorial meeting. Amid Jeanson's praise of the book, Fanon exclaimed: "Not bad for a nigger, is it?" Insulted, Jeanson dismissed Fanon from his office. Later, Jeanson learned that his response had earned him the writer's lifelong respect, and Fanon acceded to Jeanson's suggestion that the book be entitled Black Skin, White Masks.[13] He also published a related article entitled The "North African Syndrome" in 1952.[15]

Peau noire, masques blancs and the related article on the ’North-African Syndrome’ (in which he details his account of systemic clinical racism) are also products of Fanon’s hostile encounter with the work of the so-called Algiers school of psychiatry and of his early clinical experience of working with the immigrants (mainly Algerian) attracted to Lyon by the chemical and textile industries. This is described by Macey as follows:

"The work of Antoine Porot and the Algiers school is an expression of France’s attempts to understand her colonial subjects and the apparently mysterious symptoms they presented by constructing a cross-cultural psychiatry. It draws upon a variety of discourses, ranging from climatic theories of epidemiology to theories of psycho-social evolution that present the white race as the incarnation of a higher civilization, and to Levy-Bruhl’s theses on the existence of a primitive mentality. It is also heavily influenced by a traditional hostility to Islam, viewed as a pathogenic agent rather than as one of the great monotheistic religions. Lack of intellectual curiosity, suggestibility and a reliance on magical modes of thought are held to be characteristically North-African features. Islam is said to induce fatalism and chronic laziness, whilst wild mood swings between sullen indifference and manic euphoria lead to explosions of criminal impulsiveness and, in the sexual domain, outbursts of homicidal jealousy. The work of the Algiers school was enormously influential and enjoyed a surprising longevity. Manuals of clinical psychiatry continued to include articles on the psychopathology of North Africans until the 1970s. They contained no articles on the psychopathology of the white Europeans who presumably represented both a norm and a higher stage of evolution. "[6]

Frantz Fanon started a internship in the Saint Alban psychiatric hospital in the Lozère region in 1952 while he was preparing for the Medicat des hopitaux psychiatriques.[6] Most psychiatric hospitals were still carceral institutions provided for by the law of 1838, but there were no walls at Saint-Alban. Fanon completed his internship at the Saint-Alban psychiatric hospital in France, where he studied the emergent "institutional psychotherapy" then being pioneered by the psychiatrist François Tosquelles at the institute. Institutional psychotherapy sought the reintegration of the patient into society through the creation of a model community within the hospital's walls, placing emotional support of the patient above the needs of social discipline. This experience was formative for Fanon.[16] In June 1953 Fanon sat for his examinations to qualify as a practicing psychiatrist (Le Médicat de Hopitaux Psychiatrique), which he readily passed.[17]

Fanon’s completion of his medical studies was followed by a further period of uncertainty. A post was available in Martinique, but Fanon’s application was unsuccessful. After taking a temporary post in Pontorson on the Normandy coast, Fanon was appointed to a consultancy in Blida, Algeria from 1953.[6]

Political Life, Psychiatry and Death

Blida-Joinville and Psychiatry (1953-1956)

He accepted a position as chef de service (chief of staff) for the psychiatric ward of the Blida-Joinville hospital in Algeria in 1953.

The 1954 proclamation the political party of independence, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) for armed struggle against the occupation marked the beginnings of the final stage of the resistance that would eventually lead to national independence in 1962.[18] Working in a French hospital, Fanon was increasingly responsible for treating both the psychological distress of the soldiers and officers of the French army who carried out torture in order to suppress anti-colonial resistance and the trauma suffered by the Algerian torture victims.[19] Fanon writes:

"The doctor is not socially defined by the exercise of his profession alone. He is likewise the owner of mills, wine cellars, or orange groves, and he coyly speaks of his medicine as simply a supplementary source of income. [...] In the colonies, the doctor is an integral part of colonisation, of domination, of exploitation"[20]

Fanon became one of four doctors at Blida (they resist his ideas of psychiatry, so he surrounds himself with the more radical interns: Jacques Azoulay, Charles Géronimi, Alice Cherki[20] and Francois Sanchez[21]) which had 2,000 patients for 800 beds.[21] It was the only facility in Algeria that treated long-term mental illness. He was not pleased by what he saw upon his arrival: patients treated like prisoners, Muslims walled off from Europeans, individual patients kept in isolation from one another. Fanon set about reorganizing Blida around the principles of socio-therapy. Reports that Fanon unchained patients from their beds is probably apocryphal; he never mentions doing so and one of his colleagues denied that anyone had been in chains at Blida.[17]

Fanon was personally in charge of a ward of 164 European women and two-dozen Muslim males. At his direction and urging, his colleagues introduced a series of changes. These included: Holding twice weekly meetings between doctors and patients to discuss the operation of the hospital, where patients were encouraged to speak their minds. He built a library, set up ergotherapy stations—weaving, pottery, knitting, gardening—and promoted sports, especially soccer, which, he argued, could play an important role in the re-socialization of patients. He planned field trips to the beach, arranged parties and holiday celebrations, encouraged drama, singing, and other artistic productions, screened a series of movies, and invited professional singers to perform at the hospital. These various activities, developed to reconstitute “the social architecture of the hospital,” were advertised in the hospital’s newspaper, Notre journal, which was printed by the patients in one of the ergotherapy stations. These newsletters had a double purpose: they advertised the events of the day, but they were also therapeutic.[21] Fanon meticulously documented these practices in a article that he co-wrote with one of his interns, Jacques Azoulay, in 1954 for L’Information psychiatrique.[21]

When these and other practices were introduced in the ward housing European woman, the success rate in dealing with their problems and underlying illnesses increased considerably. [17] The men however disliked occupational therapy and disdained the idea of taking part in cultural events, holiday celebrations, and playing games with Europeans. Nor were they interested in participating in the newspaper. After three months of trying, Fanon called for a change of direction. [20] He came to realize that approaches that worked for Westerners often did not for Muslim cultures. In a paper co-written with his Blida colleague Jacques Azouley, entitled Social therapy in a ward of Muslim men: Methodological difficulties, they frankly admit:

"We had naively taken our division as a whole and believed we had adapted to this Muslim society the frames of a particular Western society at a determinate period of its technological evolution. We had wanted to create institutions and we had forgotten that all such approaches must be preceded with a tenacious, real and concrete interrogation into the organic bases of the indigenous society. By virtue of what impairment of judgement had we believed it possible to undertake a western-inspired social therapy in a ward of mentally ill Muslim men?"[22]

As Fanon and Azoulay made clear, their attempt to impose a Western structure in Algeria was a form of (colonial) violence that was ultimately complicit with imperialism and reproduced the structural violence of colonialism in the psychiatric practice.[21] Elements of this that were highlighted is the use of an intepreter, the celebration of non-religious or familial festivities, imposition of european cultural pratices etc.[22] As Fanon and Azoulay specified, the “cultural relativism” they were advocating was not the cultural relativism of ethnopsychiatry as practiced by Porot and the Algiers School. Rather, what they had in mind was to consider Algeria as a “total social fact” in Marcel Mauss’s sense, to pass “from the biological level to the institutional one, from the natural existence to cultural existence.” The point was not to return to a traditional Algerian society untouched in the past but rather to observe, to take into account its irreversible transformation under colonialism, and to promote a new set of institutions.[21] He writes:

"It was necessary to alter perspectives, or at least to complete or carry out some elementary perspectives. It was necessary to attempt to seize the North African reality. It was necessary to require this “totality,” in which Mauss sees the guarantee for an authentic sociological study. A leap had to be made, a transmutation of values had to be carried out. Let us admit it, it was necessary to go from the biological to the institutional, from natural existence to cultural existence."[17]

As part of this effort, Fanon made a series of outings to Kabyle communities in the countryside in order to better understand their views of mental illness. In a paper he co-authored with François Sanchez, they write:

"It was not madness that inspired respect, patience, indulgence, it was man affected by madness, by genies; it was man as such. The attentive care that one lavishes on a tubercular patient, does it imply a particular sentiment vis-à-vis tuberculosis itself? Respect for the madman because he remains, in spite of everything, a man; and to the madman because he is subject to enemy forces."[17]

He created an Algerian café decorated with local art and invited an imam for Friday prayers and traditional storytellers to entertain the patients.[20]

He made contact with the Association of Algerian Youth for Social Action (AJAAS), a group of Muslim and European youth opposed to colonialism, soon after his arrival. However, his political participation was not the main concern of Fanon early on in his stay in Algeria. The FLN contacted Fanon sometime in late 1954 or early 1955 - at first not for his political dispositions or value but for his utiility to the movement as a psychiatrist, by the recommendation of Pierre Chaulet, an Algerian of European origin who worked at Blida as a specialist in tuberculosis and had contacts with the resistance. In early 1955 he contemplated joining the guerrillas in the Aurès Mountains, but never did so. By February 1955, FLN representatives were secretly meeting with him in his offices in Blida to arrange for militants to be housed at the hospital (this included wounded fighters getting medical treatment). Initially, he had close ties with FLN commander Slimane Dehilés (aka Colonel Saddek), who was considered part of the Marxist wing of the FLN. In August 1955 the FLN launched a full-scale insurrection. [23] Fanon also spoke at public events in Algeria. In late January 1956, the AJAAS invited him to address a conference of approximately 200 people on ‘Fear in Algeria’. [24]

Fanon attended the First World Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris in September 1956. It was organized by the Pan-African quarterly cultural, political, and literary review Présence Africaine. He held a speech entitled "Racism and Culture".[25]

Fanon was expelled from Algeria shortly after handing in his letter of resignation, in January 1957, and moved to Tunis, Tunesia, where he openly joined the FLN.[23] His "Letter of resignation to the Resident Minister" became an influential text in its own right.[26] In it, he writes:

"There comes a time when silence becomes dishonesty. The ruling intentions of personal existence are not in accord with the permanent assaults on the most commonplace values. For many months my conscience has been the seat of unpardonable debates. And the conclusion is the determination not to despair of man, in other words, of myself. The decision I have reached is that I cannot continue to bear a responsibility at no matter what cost, on the false pretext that there is nothing else to be done."[27]

Josie Fanon gave birth to their first child, Olivier, in 1955.[24]

FLN, Tunisia and Dipolmatic Positions (1956-1961)

Assisted by the FLN in France and its networks in Italy and Switzerland, Fanon arrived in Tunis in late March, early April 1957. Abbane Ramdane immediately appointed Fanon to the press office that was working out of Tunisia and Morocco, then under the name of Résistance algérienne. The first article appeared in late March and discussed the urban militias that France had implemented in Algeria; the second, published in May, discussed the role of Algerian women in the fight for independence. Fanon also started part-time work as a psychiatrist at the Manouba Hospital, via the intervention of the then Tunisian Minister of Health, Ahmed Ben Salah. Abbane Ramdane restructured the press wing starting June 1957, which included laying the groundwork the launching the El Moudjahid as the official organ of the FLN, for which Fanon worked in the editorial staff until 1960. In this time period, he was introduced to Engel's The Role of Violence in History (also known as The Role of Force in History)[28] and Anti-Dühring, which Fanon recieved mildly. [29] El Moudjahid came out in Arabic and French editions; Fanon wrote for the latter. One of the first subjects he was assigned to write about was the French left. His articles contain a critique of the left and the french working class. He e.g. writes:

"The generalized, and sometimes truly bloody enthusiasm that has marked the participation of the French workers and peasants in the war against the Algerian people has shaken to its foundations the myth of an effective opposition between the people. and the government. According to a significant statement made by one of the French prime ministers, the Nation has identified itself with its army fighting in Algeria. The war in Algeria is being waged conscientiously by all Frenchmen and the few criticisms expressed up to the present time by a few individuals mention only certain methods which "are precipitating the loss of Algeria." But the colonial reconquest in its essence, the armed expedition, the attempt to throttle the liberty of a people, are not condemned."[30]

And further:

"In a colonial country, it used to be said, there is a community of interests between the colonized people and the working class of the colonialist country. The history of wars of liberation waged by the colonized peoples is the history of the non-verification of this thesis."[31]

He specifically critiques the PCF and other french communists's position on Algeria:

The Communist Left, for its part, while proclaiming the necessity for colonial countries to evolve toward independence, requires the maintenance of special links with France. Such positions clearly manifest that even the so-called extremist parties consider that France has rights in Algeria and that the l ightening of domination does not necessarily imply the disappearance of every link. This mental attitude assumes the guise of a technocratic paternalism, of a disingenuous warning against the danger of regression."[31]

The writings he produced in that time are difficult to singularly attibute to Fanon, as they often represented a collective editorial effort (in the French language version, as the journal was bilingual, Fanon contributed). El Moudjahid also published excerpts of the papers Fanon delivered in Accra at the All African Peoples Conference (AAPC) in 1958 that he attended, together with Boumendjel and Mostefai, as a member of the Algerian delegation. [29]This was Fanon’s first visit to sub-Saharan Africa and it was occasioned by the All-African People’s Congress, held in Accra from 8 to 12 December 1958. Attended by some 200 delegates from twenty-five countries, the Congress was seen by its organizers as a first step towards a Pan-African Commonwealth of a free and independent United States of Africa.[32] He met Kwame Nkrumah, Félix Moumié from Cameroon, Patrice Lumumba, the Kenyan Tom M’Boya and the UPA’s Álvaro Holden Roberto at the 1958 conference.[33]

Frantz Fanon speaking at the All African People’s Conference (AAPC), which was held in Accra, Ghana, between 5 and 13 December 1958.[19]

Fanon’s contributions at the Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists , held in Rome in April 1959, were also excerpted.[29]

During the years of his tenure at El Moudjahid, Fanon’s main areas of inquiry included the French reaction and developments in France, life inside Algeria proper, and the political future of the African continent. In group meetings, Fanon clearly refrained from voicing an opinion on Pan-Arabism and the idea of an Arab nation, and in 1958, he did not pronounce himself on the Antilles. He had not authored the article on the Antilles that was published in El Moudjahid, and later, attributed to him in Revolution africaine; in fact, he had refused the assignment. The Article was actually anonymously written by Pierre Chaulet.[29] In May 1958, he wrote a "Letter to the Youth of Africa" in which he attacked Houphouet-Boigny who he accused of "having compromised the development of our country for many years to come."[34]

Fanon’s own contribution to what he called Algeria’s littérature de combat was L’An V de la révolution algérienne, which was published in the autumn of 1959. Fanon’s L’An V comprises short studies of five ‘aspects’ of the Algerian Revolution: the changing role of women, the FLN’s use of radio propaganda, the effects of the Revolution on the Algerian family, medicine and colonization, and the position of the European minority. Two appendices (not by Fanon) are included to demonstrate that there was a role for Europeans in the Revolution.[32] L’An V had sold out within two weeks upon publication in 1959 before being banned in France.[35]

In 1959, he was appointed as an ambassador to Africa to the provisional Algerian government (GPRA). In early spring 1959, while still in Tunis, he contacted his secretary, Marie-Jeanne Manuellan, to dictate his book, Studies in a Dying Colonialism. Fanon travelled in the summer of 1959 to Morocco to assist with the Front’s medical services on the Algerian–Moroccan frontier. He was based at the Ben M’Hidi base, the headquarters of the Southern Frontier Army. He treated fighters dealing with exhaustion and fatigue.[36] He was involved in a car-accident and was briefly transferred to Rome for treatment, and returned in Autumn 1959.[36]

In February 1960, Fanon was appointed as an Ambassador to Ghana of the GPRA[34] as a permanent representative in Accra for the All-African People's Conference.[37] The Ghanaian government the permanent delegation as an embassy and Fanon as an ambassador. Most of Fanon’s activities here were related to the development of the ‘African Legion’ project that had first been mentioned at Accra in December 1958, for which he travelled to Cairo in March 1960 to win the approval of the GPRA and the newly formed Etat Major, which brought the Eastern and Western frontier armies under a single command for the first time. This was not well recieved and is often neglected.[33]

Fanon’s round of conferences began in Tunis when President Habib Bourguiba opened the Conference of African Peoples on 25 January 1960, demanding a halt to plans for nuclear testing in the Sahara, where France was planning to explode its first atom bomb in mid-February, and the return of Bizerte to Tunisia. In April 1960, he was in Conakry to speak at the Afro-Asiatic Solidarity Conference. The conference was formally opened on 11 April 1960 by Sekou Touré, who described the delegates as representing a world of hunger, poverty and ignorance which had been denied any kind of human rights by an imperialism that had exploited it as an immense reservoir of men and commodities. Speaking on 13 April, Fanon spoke of the GPRA’s determination to pursue the war of independence until the final victory was achieved and sternly denounced countries whose ‘negative neutralism’ had led them to sign treaties with France, the main targets of such criticism being Senghor’s Senegal and Houphouet-Boigny’s Ivory Coast. Such treaties were, he argued, to be regarded with distrust and suspicion by all those who were fighting for the right to self-determination, for human rights and for freedom and dignity. The final resolution adopted on 16 April called for intensified action at the international level to bring about the triumph of the Algerian cause.[33]

Also in April 1960, Fanon returned to Accra for the Conference on Positive Action. There were condemnations of France’s use of the Sahara for nuclear tests and calls for the withdrawal of French troops from Algeria. The Committee on Algeria elected by the conference now suggested that the heads of independent states should meet to organize a corps of African volunteers to support the ALN. From 14th to 20th of June 1960, Fanon travelled to Addis Abeba for the Conference of Independent African States, for which the GPRA had observer status. At the end of August, Fanon, Oussedik and Yazid travelled to Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) to attend the Pan-African Congress convened at the suggestion of Patrice Lumumba.[33]

Fanon started to take concrete steps in the direction of the formation of a African Legion from 12 September 1960, in Guinea, flying from Conakry to Kakan, close to the border to Mali. Later, after a brief interlude in Accra and Tripolis, Fanon and a small commando travelled from Accra, through Mali (where they met President Mobido Keita) all the way up to the Mali-Algerian border, proving that the route was navigable. This was done in an attempt to establish a major Saharan Front, an idea that, albeit already practiced on a far smaller scale to the east since 1956, only ever played a minor role staring 1961. Fanon was left exhausted by this trip. He made his final contribution to the English-language bulletin board produced by the GPRA dated to the14th December 1960. [33]

Continuing Psychiatric Work

The Wretched of the Earth and Death (1961)

After an initial checkup in Accra, Fanon travelled to Tunis were he was diagnosed with Leukemia. He was moved to the Soviet Union for treatment at a clinic outside Moscow until early April, but also went back to Tunis as his health slightly improved due to the treatment he recieved there.[33] Here, he continued to deliver lectures to the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN) officers at Ghardimao on the Algerian–Tunisian border.[38]

As his publisher remarks, Fanon’s Les Damnés de la terre is actually made up of material dictated to his wife in the spring and summer of 1961 during a 10-week period[37], and supplemented by previously published and reworked material. Less than half the material included in the book was actually produced in 1961. The section on ‘national culture’ is an expanded version of the speech given by Fanon to Présence africaine’s Rome congress at Easter 1959. The final section on ‘colonial war and mental illness’ consists mainly of case-notes made in Blida and Tunis between 1954 and 1959, supplemented by a short essay which takes up and revises both Fanon’s 1952 essay on ‘The North-African syndrome’ and his one brief contribution to Consciences maghrébines.[38]

"On Violence" was published in Les Temps modernes in May 1961. Fanon met Sartre and Simon de Beauvoir in Rome in July 1961, where Jean Paul Sartre agreed to write a preface. Here, he engaged in lengthy discussions with the two[38]

Fanon agreed to go to the United States at the urging of his comrades. The CIA agreed to get Fanon to the United States and promised stealth, as he was valuable for his knowledge of the left-wing of the FLN and of African liberation movements.[35] During his time in the United States, Fanon was handled by CIA agent Oliver Iselin[39], a case officer provided by the American Embassy in Tunis.[40]

He was kept in a hotel upon arrival without treatment for several days until he contracted pneumonia. Accounts differ on the remainder: Reports have ranged from Fanon visiting and subsequently dying in New York City to his remaining just in Washington, D.C. It is also unclear how much, if any, information was divulged by Fanon, but his training as a psychiatrist and his knowledge of the torture techniques employed by the French during his time in Blida-Joinville propably proved useful. [35]

By the time Fanon was taken to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland[40]on October 10, 1961[38], he was on the verge of death. He had been admitted under the name of Ibrahim Omar Fanon, a Libyan nom de guerre he had assumed in order to enter a hospital in Rome after being wounded in Morocco during a mission for the Algerian National Liberation Front. [40] He was put through several blood transfusions. His wife and son were brought to him.[35] He died on the 6th December 1961.[40] His body was brought to Tunis and then to a liberated Algeria, where, after a long procession with military rituals he was laid to rest.[35] Later, his body was moved to a martyrs' (Chouhada) graveyard at Aïn Kerma in eastern Algeria.

On the day that the news of Fanon’s death reached Paris, the French police began to seize copies of Les Damnés de la terre from the book-shops. In New York, the GPRA’s representatives at the UN gave copies of it to diplomats as a Christmas present.[38]

Work and Thought

Black Skin, White Masks

A Dying Colonialism

Toward the African Revolution

The Wretched of the Earth

Fanons Psychiatry

Negritude and Race



  • Black Skin, White Masks (1952)
  • A Dying Colonialism (1959)
  • The Wretched of the Earth (1961)
  • Toward the African Revolution (1964)
  • Alienation and Freedom (2018)


  1. “Remembering Algerian Revolutionary Frantz Fanon.” teleSUR, Dec. 6, 2017. Archived 2022-08-18.
  2. 2.0 2.1 “Martinique and Algeria’s Franz Fanon Remembered.” teleSUR. 2016. Archived 2023-03-19.
  3. John Drabinski. "Frantz Fanon." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Mar 14, 2019. Archived 2023-03-19.
  4. Vijay Prashad (2008). The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World: 'Algiers' (p. 121). [PDF] The New Press. ISBN 9781595583420 [LG]
  5. Vijay Prashad (2008). The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World: 'La Paz' (p. 139). [PDF] The New Press. ISBN 9781595583420 [LG]
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 David Macey (1996). Frantz Fanon 1925-1961. History of Psychiatry, 7 (28), 489-497. doi: 10.1177/0957154x9600702802 [HUB]
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Leo Zeilig (2021). Frantz Fanon: A Political Biography: 'Martinique, France and Beyond' (pp. 15-27). I.B.Tauris. [LG]
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Peter Hudis (2015). Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the Barricades: 'The Path to Political and Philosophical Commitment' (pp. 14-19). London: Pluto Press. [LG]
  9. Frantz Fanon (1986 (1952)). Black Skins, White Masks (p. 20). [PDF] London: Pluto Press, translated by Charles Lam Markmann.
  10. Frantz Fanon (1986 (1952)). Black Skin, White Masks (pp. 192-193). [PDF] London: Pluto Press, translated by Charles Lam Markmann.
  11. Frantz Fanon (1986 (1952)). Black Skins, White Masks (p. 156). [PDF] London: Pluto Press, translated by Charrles Lam Markmann.
  12. Frantz Fanon (2018). Alienation and Freedom: 'Fanon, revolutionary playwright (Robert J.C. Young)' (p. 11). London: Bloomsbury Academic. [LG]
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Alice Cherki (2006). Frantz Fanon: A portrait: 'Before Blida' (pp. 16-24). Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [LG]
  14. 14.0 14.1 Leo Zeilig (2021). Frantz Fanon: A Political Biography (pp. 31-36). I.B. Tauris. [LG]
  15. Frantz Fanon (1959). Towards the African Revolution: Political Essays: 'The "North African Syndrome" (1952)' (p. 3). [PDF] New York: Grove Press. [LG]
  16. Richard C. Keller (2007). Clinician and Revolutionary: Frantz Fanon, Biography, and the History of Colonial Medicine (p. 827). Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Vol. 81, No. 4, 823-841. doi: 10.2307/44452161 [HUB]
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Peter Hudis (2015). Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the Barricades: 'The Engaged Psychiatrist: Blida and the Psychodynamics of Racism' (pp. 55-59). London: Pluto Press. [LG]
  18. Ziad Bentahar (2009). Frantz Fanon: Travelling Psychoanalysis and Colonial Algeria (p. 133). Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, Vol. 42, No. 3, 127-140. doi: 10.2307/44030671 [HUB]
  19. 19.0 19.1 Hamza Hamouchene (2021-04-06). "Frantz Fanon and the Algerian revolution today" Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE). Retrieved 2023-07-21.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Leo Zeilig (2021). Frantz Fanon: A Political Biography: 'Towards Revolution' (pp. 54-55). I.B.Tauris. [LG]
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 Camille Robcis (2020). Frantz Fanon, Institutional Psychotherapy, and the Decolonization of Psychiatry. Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 81, Number 2, 303-325. doi: 10.1353/jhi.2020.0009 [HUB]
  22. 22.0 22.1 Frantz Fanon (2018). Alienation and Freedom: 'Social therapy in the war of Muslim Men: Methodological Difficulties' (p. 362). London: Bloomsbury Academic. [LG]
  23. 23.0 23.1 Peter Hudis (2015). Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the Barricades: 'The Engaged Philosopher: The FLN and the Algerian Revolution' (pp. 70-82). London: Pluto Press. [LG]
  24. 24.0 24.1 Leo Zeilig (2021). Frantz Fanon: A Political Biography: 'Into the Eye of the Storm' (pp. 86-88). I.B. Tauris.
  25. Frantz Fanon (1967). Toward the African Revolution: 'Racism and Culture (1956)' (p. 31). [PDF] New York: Grove Press. [LG]
  26. Michael Azar (2000-12-06). "In the Name of Algeria: Frantz Fanon and the Algerian Revolution" Eurozine. Retrieved 2023-07-23.
  27. Frantz Fanon (1967). Towards the African Revolution: 'Letter to the Resident Minister (1956)' (p. 54). [PDF] New York: Grove Press. [LG]
  28. Friedrich Engels (1896 (written 1887)). The Role of Force in History (p. 453). Marx Engels Collected Work, Volume 26, first published in Die Neue Zeit, 1895-96;. [MIA]
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 Alice Cherki. Frantz Fanon: A Portrait: 'Tunis' (pp. 100-108). Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [LG]
  30. Frantz Fanon (1967). Towards an African Revolution: 'Algeria Face to Face with the French Torturers' (pp. 65-66). [PDF] New York: Grove Press.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Frantz Fanon (1967). Towards an African Revolution: 'French Intellectuals and Democrats and the Algerian Revolution' (pp. 82-88). [PDF] New York: Grove Press.
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  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 33.4 33.5 David Macey (2012). Frantz Fanon: A Biography: 'The Year of Africa' (pp. 379-408). London: Verso. [LG]
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  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 35.4 Nigel C. Gibson (2011). Living Fanon: Global Perspectives: 'Requiem on a Life Well Lived: In Memory of Fanon (Lewis R. Gordon)' (pp. 23-26). Contemporary Black History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [LG]
  36. 36.0 36.1 Leo Zeilig (2021). Frantz Fanon: A Political Biography (Second Edition): 'Year Five of the Algerian Revolution' (pp. 139-170). London: I.B. Tauris. [LG]
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  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 David Macey (2012). Frantz Fanon: A Biography: 'The Wretched of the Earth' (pp. 409-447). London: Verso. [LG]
  39. Thomas Meany (2019). History Unclassified: Frantz Fanon and the CIA Man (p. 984). [PDF] The American Historical Review, Volume 124, Issue 3, 983-995. doi: 10.1093/ahr/rhz254 [HUB]
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 Homi K.Bhaba (2004). Foreword: Framing Fanon (pp. vii-viii). [PDF] New York: Grove Press.