“They realize at last that change does not mean reform, that change does not mean improvement.”
Frantz Fanon was born on July 20th, 1925. On the Caribbean island of Martinique, which was a French colony but is now being described as a “single territorial collectivity”. This means, according to the French constitution of 1958, “provides” -the island- local autonomy within limits prescribed by law.
Fanon’s intellect & unique life experiences set him up to be an important voice in 20th century philosophy. Fanon was born into a well-off middle class family with 7 siblings. Due to Fanon’s family’s socio-economical class, his parents were able to afford him the opportunity to attend one of the most prestigious high-schools’ then in Martinique; Lycée Schoelcher. There, Fanon was influenced by his school teacher, legendary French poet & writer; Aimé Césaire. Césaire was said to be one of the founders of the négritude movement in Francophone literature. Négritude is a literary movement popularized in the 1930s, 40s & 50s that began among French-speaking African & Caribbean writers living in Paris, as a protest against French colonial rule & the policy of assimilation. Frantz Fanon went on ahead to be a huge champion for the movement later in his life. Lepold Sédar Senghor, Senegal’s 1st elected president, was also at the forefront of the Négritude movement.
At the young age of 18, Fanon left the island, joining the Free French forces during World War II. Fanon took note of the severe racism against Black people he was exposed to during the war. Giving the example of white women preferring to dance with fascists Italian prisoners, than associate with the Black soldiers who liberated them.
Sad. For them. In 1945, he shortly returned to Martinique. Working with his mentor Aimé Césaire & completing his baccalaureate, before heading on to the University of Lyon, in France, to secure a degree in medicine & psychiatry. One of Fanon’s earliest work; Black Skin, White Masks was actually a rejected doctoral dissertation. It was Entitled; Essay on the Desalination of the Black. It was a response to all the racism he experienced in Lyon while pursing his degrees. Psychoanalyzing the oppressed Black person, living in a white world where they are perceived as less than & how they navigate the world through a performance of whiteness. He later submitted another dissertation on a narrower subject to gain his doctor of philosophy degree but proceeded to publish the turned-down manuscript while completing his residency in psychiatry at Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole, in the south of France. In 1953, Fanon moved to Algeria, accepting the position as a psychiatrist at Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital. He was said to have “radical” methods of treatments; using socio-therapy in order to connect with his patients’ cultural backgrounds, training nurses & interns. Fanon was appalled by the differences of the living standard between European colonizers & the indigenous people. Specifically, the racism Algerians experienced in their own home land. November 1954, was the outbreak of the Algerian Revolt. Being that he worked for a French hospital in Algeria, Fanon was responsible for catering to the psychological distress of the French soldiers & officers who tortured Algerians as a means to suppress the anti-colonial resistance, also while treating Algerian torture victims. It was then he quickly realized he could no longer support the French effort. In 1956, Fanon quit his job at the hospital & joined the Front de Libération Nationale, moving to Tunis to found the magazine; El Moudjahid (Freedom Fighter).
In 1960, Fanon served as ambassador to Ghana for the Provisional Algerian Government (GPRA). This same year, he was diagnosed with the dreaded leukemia. When Fanon wasn’t confined to his bed due to his illness, he delivered lectures to officers on the Algero-Tunisian border.
In his work “The Wretched of Earth” Fanon argued the deep connection between colonialism & the mind. Proposing violent revolution against colonial control that must be combined with rebuilding national culture. We wonder what his thoughts on gentrification would have been. Fanon passed away on December 6th, 1961, in Bethesda, Maryland. Shortly after he travelled to the US in hopes to receive advance treatment for his illness. He inspires & leaves us with a whole lot to ponder on.