This article was compiled by Jodi Phillips May 2014, for the Institute of Black Academics
concerning Black Under achievement.

PUBLISHED 09 MAY 2014  04:26


Frantz Fanon was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique on 20 July 1925. As a decorated veteran of World War II, he was able to secure support for his studies in psychiatry in Lyon, France, where he attended Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s lectures in philosophy. It was there that he met and married Marie-Josèphe Dublé, a young woman of Corsican-Gypsy descent from a leftist family, with whom he had a son (He also had a daughter, Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France, who now directs The Frantz Fanon Foundation in Paris, from a previous, short relationship with a Russian Jewish woman in Lyon). Fanon then achieved his license, through training with the famed Spanish humanist psychiatrist François Tosquelles, to serve as director of any psychiatric ward in the French-speaking world.  He wrote a letter offering his skills to Léopold Senghor, the leader of the decolonization movement in Senegal and its first President. Senghor never answered Fanon’s letter, so he took a post at the Blida-Joinville hospital in Algiers, Algeria, in 1953. Fanon’s years in Algeria came to a radical shift at the advent of the Algerian war, which formally began in 1954 and ended in 1962.  His response to the war was to join the Algerian rebels, the Front liberation nationale (FLN), against France. He trained FLN members in techniques at resisting torture and combat techniques he learned from his years as a soldier.  He eventually resigned from his post and became a full-time organizer and writer for the FLN and moved with his family to Tunisia. By 1960, his health had deteriorated considerably, and upon seeking care was informed that he had leukaemia.

Fanon first went to the then Soviet Union for treatment but was informed by the physicians there that the best care was in the United States, in Bethesda, Maryland. After planning some book projects and completing his last and arguably most influential book, Les Damnés de la terre (The Damned of the Earth, available in English as The Wretched of the Earth), he went to Bethesda under the name of Ibrahim Fanon. When he arrived in the US, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) detained him for ten days without treatment. The result was his contracting pneumonia, which led to his death on 6 December 1961.  Fanon was 36 years young when he died. His body was sent to Algeria, where he was by then a citizen, and he was buried in an FLN veterans’ graveyard, after a few days of ceremony and military recognition as an important revolutionary. Fanon is one of the most famous black revolutionary figures of the twentieth century. He is known as a revolutionary existential humanist whose writings are influential in such areas of thought as political theory, Africana thought, postcolonial thought, and black existentialism, to name a few.

The Histories of Violence “Fanon & Violence” lecture is provided by Professor Lewis R. Gordon (Temple University, U.S.A.). At the time of filming, Professor Gordon was the Director of the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Thought. He was also Director of the Centre for Afro-Jewish Studies while a Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy at Temple University and President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association. Professor Gordon has written many works in race theory, Africana philosophy, postcolonial phenomenology, philosophy of existence, social and political philosophy, film and literature, philosophy of education, philosophy of human sciences, and a variety of topics in the public interest. Before joining Temple, he taught at Brown University for eight years, during which the program in Afro-American Studies became the Department of Africana Studies under his leadership as chairperson. He also taught at Purdue University and Yale University, and he is Ongoing Visiting Professor of Government and Philosophy at the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica. Professor Gordon has presented lectures internationally, and has been a recipient of numerous awards and distinguished fellowships.

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