Frantz Fanon (1925–1961)

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Today marks the birth of Frantz Fanon. Born on July 20, 1925, to a middle-class family in Martinique, Fanon is remembered as a psychiatrist, philosopher, and writer, but most of all as a revolutionary.  His relatively short life yielded two potent and influential statements of anti-colonial revolutionary thought, Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961), works which have made Fanon a prominent contributor to postcolonial studies.

In Martinique, Fanon attended the Lycée Schoelcher, then the most prestigious high school in Martinique, where famed intellectual and poet Aimé Césaire was one of his teachers. Throughout his life, Fanon traveled widely. Although he grew up witnessing the racism of the French soldiers in Martinique, he left the island in 1943 to join the Free French forces in Dominica and then to fight in World War II, after which he remained in France to study medicine and psychiatry on scholarship in Lyon. Here he began writing political essays and plays. Before he left France, Fanon had already published his first analysis of the effects of racism and colonization, Black Skin, White Masks [originally titled “An Essay for the Disalienation of Blacks,” this was his doctoral thesis, rejected by his professors in Lyon], which would become a foundational text for the liberation movements of the 1960s and later for postcolonial studies. In 1952 he moved to Algeria and practiced at the Blida-Joinville psychiatric hospital in French Algeria. Following the outbreak of the Algerian Revolution in 1954, he joined the FLN liberation front. In 1957 he was deported from Algeria. He continued his revolutionary actions in Tunisia and had a brief appointment as ambassador to Ghana for the provisional Algerian government.

His works include Peau noire, masques blancs [Black Skin, White Masks, 1952], L’an cinq de la revolution algerienne [1959; translated as Studies in a Dying Colonialism, or A Dying Colonialism in 1965], Les damnés de la terre [1961; translated as The Wretched of the Earth in 1965], and a collection of essays titled Pour la revolution africaine [1964; translated as Toward the African Revolution in 1967].

Fanon died of leukemia at the age of 36 on December 6, 1961.

For full biography and photo, see http://www.blackpast.org/?q=gah/fanon-frantz-1925-1961 and http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/Fanon.html

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