Psychiatrist and political theorist Frantz Fanon dedicated much of his short life to studying the patterns of colonization and racial discrimination suffered by blacks and Africans. Over several decades, his reflections served as an inspiration for social action and revolutionary movements around the world.
Fanon was born on July 20, 1925, in Fort-de-France, a coastal city on the south of the island of Martinique. He grew up in a working-class family with his parents and seven siblings. From 1939 to 1943, he attended the Lycée Victor Schoelcher in his hometown and studied under the tutelage of Aimé Césaire, a politician, poet and creator of the concept of “negritud.” Shortly thereafter, he traveled to Dominica and enlisted in the French Liberation Forces to fight the Nazis in the name of France. In the process, he discovered the racism that existed in the ranks of the military. While Fanon was decorated for his military performance at the Battle of Alsace during World War II, the awareness that was awakened in him during his military service would later lead him to energetically criticize the French government.
After working in the French Communist Party’s campaign for mayor of Fort de France and the eventually victorious political campaign of his teacher and friend Aimé Césaire, Fanon won a scholarship to study psychiatry at the University of Lyon in France. In 1952, he published his doctoral thesis as a book titled Peau noire, masques blancs (Black Skin, White Masks). The book began outlining the ideas that would define Fanon’s political and philosophical thinking as he explored the psychological dimensions of colonialism and oppression of blacks. The author explained that as part of the process of colonization, access by the oppressed to their original cultural codes was often eliminated or minimized. This imposition of the culture of the other, said Fanon, created a colonial mentality, deep feelings of inferiority, and led to them to reproduce the behaviors of their oppressors, among other serious consequences.
In 1953, Fanon worked as Chief of Services at the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital in Algeria. There he experimented in his practice with treatments that combined social therapy, psychotherapy, and cultural practices of the patients. In that era he also joined the Algeria National Liberation Front and the revolutionary newspaper El Moudjahid, and he wrote the texts that in 1964, after his death, would appear under the name Pour la révolution africaine (Toward the African Revolution). In 1961, his posthumous book Les damnés de la Terre (The Wretched of the Earth), considered his masterwork, was published.
Frantz Fanon died of leukemia on December 6, 1961, at age 36, in Maryland in the United States.
Author: Alfredo Nieves Moreno
Published: April 25, 2012.
This post is also available in: Español