Celebrating 50 years of Frantz Fanon

For the black man there is only one destiny. And it is white.

Black Skin, White Masks (1952)

50 years after the death of Frantz Fanon we can still hear his call to Africans to decolinise their minds and emancipate themselves from the European project. For Fanon, it was never just a struggle for political or economic independence, but for consciousness.

Born in Martinique (French colony) in 1925, Fanon was taught by Aimé Césaire before joining the French army during the second World War. Fanon went on to study medicine and psychiatry before joining the Algerian liberation movement and engaging in clandestine activities while writing various books and articles. Working on issues of class, race and culture during an age of struggles against empire, Fanon became as unpopular as he did famous for his views on the use of violence against oppressive colonisers and for not being very positively disposed towards women.

The social movements that carried the national liberation and decolonisation struggles in the 1950s and 60s right across the continent owe a great service to the activism, inspiration and energy that Fanon brought to Africa – and Algeria in particular.

Writers, practitioners and activists have gathered from inside and outside of Africa to reflect on Fanon’s legacy and its lasting impact in a special issue of Pambazuka News (issue no.561), publishing 17 articles online late last year. Links to all of the articles are included below.

Unconventional in life and controversial in death, it comes as no surprise that Fanon’s death was not reported by any major English speaking newspaper. A psychiatrist, philosopher and revolutionary in equal measures, Fanon’s ideas continue to challenge – finding appeal with farmers, students, workers and the dispossessed everywhere. His message shows no signs of aging in our increasingly unequal world:

Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.

Fanon’s Enduring Relevance by Ama Biney
What would Fanon make of ‘the myriad socio-economic and political problems facing Africans and people of African descent today,’ asks Ama Biney, on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Frantz Fanon and the current Multiple Crises by Mireille Fanon Mendès-France
Fanon appears more current than ever, writes Mireille Fanon Mendès-France. Thanks to his thought, many people have learnt that the fight for liberty, democracy and human rights is led against local despots and against the tenets of the neo-colonial order which they protect.

Remembering Fanon: Setting afoot a new humanity by Lewis Gordon
Frantz Fanon ‘respected us enough to understand that, as with his observation about every generation having to find its mission, to fulfill it or betray it, the responsibility for that future is no other than ours,’ writes Lewis Gordon.

Universalism in action by Richard Pithouse
‘Fifty years on, Fanon remains an extraordinary example of an intellectual willing to commit to a living politics waged with and not for the damned of this earth,’ writes Richard Pithouse.

The ghost of Frantz Fanon by David Austin
Frantz Fanon’s legacy remains with us as a challenge that another world is possible, writes David Austin.

Living Fanon: the rationality of revolt by Nigel C. Gibson
In the context of revolutions in North Africa, Nigel C. Gibson reflects on Frantz Fanon’s interpretations of postcolonial politics.

Frantz Fanon and the global African worker by Bill Fletcher, Jr
Workers should be ‘centrally involved in leading the national democratic/revolutionary process’ rather than joining labour unions ‘subordinated’ to a national liberation party or post-independence ruling authority, argues Bill Fletcher, in a revisiting of Fanon’s thinking on class struggle and the national project.

Fanon and ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ by A political-pedagogical force
In the fifty years since Fanon’s passing to the other side and since the first publication of The Wretched of the Earth, both continue to live on, challenging us to not give up, to not become complacent, and to take arms, albeit symbolic, social, political, epistemic, and most of all pedagogical ones.

Frantz Fanon: Prophet of African Liberation by Cameron Duodu
In the fifty years since Fanon’s passing to the other side and since the first publication of The Wretched of the Earth, both continue to live on, challenging us to not give up, to not become complacent, and to take arms, albeit symbolic, social, political, epistemic, and most of all pedagogical ones.

Frantz Fanon, globalization and the African revolution by Helmi Sharawi
The need to revisit Fanon’s work has ‘never been greater’, argues Helmi Sharawi, in an analysis of its relevance to ‘the process of globalisation’ in contemporary Africa

‘Toward the African revolution’ by Aziz Salmone Fall
Inspired by the revolutionary insights of Fanon, Aziz Salmone Fall proposes ‘pan-Africentrage’: A process of acquiring political and historic awareness of the collective autonomy of the continent by breaking away from dominant capitalism and revaluing our traditions and ways of being in solidarity.

Frantz Fanon in Africa and Asia by Samir Amin
Frantz Fanon is a loved and respected figure all over Africa and Asia. Samir Amin argues that his writing and the choice to join the liberation struggle in Algeria show Fanon was a genuine revolutionary.

Fanon and the fact of ‘blackness’ by Chambi Chachage
‘The Fact of Blackness’, the seminal 1952 essay by Frantz Fanon, is still relevant today, argues Chambi Chachage. ‘It is relevant simply because Du Bois’ problem of colour line has not yet disappeared.’

Frantz Fanon: my hope and hero by Orlando Patterson
Not just a brilliant analysis of colonialism and the process of decolonisation, Fanon’s ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ is ‘the heart and soul of a movement’ written by ‘one who fully participated in it,’ writes Orlando Patterson.

Caribbean Fanonism revisited by Norman Girvan
The greatest value of the Fanonist thesis, writes Norman Girvan, might lie in its analysis of the ‘psychology of liberation’ at personal level. But the thesis cannot be used as the basis for a theory of the preconditions of successful postcolonial reconstruction.

The day I met Frantz Fanon by Fatma Alloo
Writers like Frantz Fanon put pen to paper so that the next generation could understand history and its atrocities, says Fatma Alloo.

Fanon, coloniality and emancipation by Eunice N. Sahle
Fifty years after his death, Fanon remains ‘the entry point in any project geared to the realisation of substantive emancipation, as opposed to elite-led projects,’ writes Eunice N. Sahle.


All 17 articles of the 50 years of Frantz Fanon Pambazuka News special issue are available at https://www.pambazuka.org/en/issue/561