Frantz Fanon Biography

(Psychiatrist)

Birthday: July 20, 1925 (Cancer)

Born In: Fort-de-France, Martinique

French-West Indian psychiatrist, political philosopher, and independence activist Frantz Fanon is remembered for his immense contribution to areas such as Marxism, post-colonial studies, and critical theory. A Pan-Africanist, he explored the psychopathology of colonization and the connection between colonialism and the mind. While working as a psychiatrist in Algeria, Fanon became an ardent supporter of Algeria's War of independence against France. He often treated both the revolutionaries and anti-colonial activists who were tortured and the officers who were forced to torture them. While treating patients and secretly supporting the activists, he ended up joining the Algerian National Liberation Front and was later exiled to Tunisia. He died fighting leukemia while being treated for the disease in the US. Of his many impactful books, The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skins White Masks are the most notable and have inspired later scholars.

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Quick Facts

French Celebrities Born In July

Also Known As: Frantz Omar Fanon, Ibrahim Frantz Fanon

Died At Age: 36

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Josie Fanon (m. ?–1961)

father: Félix Casimir Fanon

mother: Eléanore Médélice

children: Mireille Fanon Mendès-France, Olivier Fanon

Born Country: Martinique

Psychiatrists French Men

Died on: December 6, 1961

place of death: Bethesda, Maryland, United States

Cause of Death: Leukemia

Notable Alumni: University Of Lyon

More Facts

education: University Of Lyon

  • 1

    What are the main ideas in Frantz Fanon's book "Black Skin, White Masks?"

    Frantz Fanon's "Black Skin, White Masks" explores the effects of colonialism and racism on the psyche of Black individuals, focusing on issues of identity, self-perception, and the internalization of racism.

  • 2

    How did Frantz Fanon's experiences as a psychiatrist influence his work?

    As a psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon drew on his clinical experiences to analyze the impact of colonialism and racism on mental health, highlighting the psychological damage inflicted on both the colonizer and the colonized.

  • 3

    What is the concept of Colonial alienation?

    Colonial alienation, a key concept in Fanon's work, refers to the sense of dislocation and dehumanization experienced by colonized peoples under colonial rule, leading to a loss of identity and a struggle for liberation.

  • 4

    How did Frantz Fanon's ideas influence the decolonization movements in Africa and beyond?

    Frantz Fanon's ideas on anti-colonial struggle and the quest for self-determination inspired and influenced various decolonization movements in Africa and other parts of the world, shaping the discourse on liberation and resistance.

  • 5

    What is the significance of Frantz Fanon's concept of "violence as a cleansing force?"

    Fanon's notion of "violence as a cleansing force" challenges the idea that violence is always negative, suggesting that in the context of anti-colonial struggle, it can be a necessary tool for breaking the cycle of oppression and asserting one's humanity.

Childhood, Early Life & Education

Frantz Omar Fanon, better known as Frantz Fanon, was born in Fort-de-France, in the French colony of Martinique, on July 20, 1925. His father, Félix Casimir Fanon, who was a customs agent, had directly descended from African slaves. His mother, Eléanore Médélice, a shopkeeper, had Afro-Martinican and white Alsatian roots.

Frantz was the third of four sons of his family. He had four sisters, too. He was extremely close to his sister Gabrielle, who died quite early in life.

He initially attended Lycée Schoelcher, one of the most reputed schools in Fort-de-France, Martinique, where author and poet Aimé Césaire was one of his instructors. In 1943, at the tender age of 18, Fanon left Martinique and joined the Free French forces.

He was thus associated with the French resistance against the Caribbean’s Vichy regime. He was also against the Nazis in France.

Following World War II, he went to Lyon to study medicine and psychiatry at the University of Lyon. After completing his studies, Fanon fought against colonialism and was influenced by African freedom fighters who went to France to gather support for their cause.

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Career as a Psychiatrist and an Independence Activist

After completing his residency in France, Frantz Fanon practiced psychiatry at Pontorson, near Mont Saint-Michel, for a year. In 1953, he joined the Bilda-Joinville Hospital in Algiers as the head of the psychiatric department.

In Algeria, he was stunned by the difference in the quality of life between the European colonizers and the local population. He also witnessed a lot of racism there. He worked at the hospital till he was deported later.

Soon after the Algerian revolution broke out in November 1954, Fanon got acquainted with Dr. Pierre Chaulet at Blida, in around 1955. The 1954 Algerian revolt was countered and suppressed with torture, physical abuse, and mass killings of Algerians by the European colonizers.

While working at the French hospital in Algeria, Fanon treated distressed French soldiers and officers who were forced to torture the revolutionaries in order to counter the anti-colonial resistance. Fanon also treated many Algerian torture victims.

Fanon's methods of psychiatric treatment involved innovative processes such as socio-therapy to connect with the patients and their cultural backgrounds. He trained nurses and interns, too.

For two whole years, Fanon secretly supported the revolutionaries. In 1956, he quit his job at the hospital and joined the Front de Libération Nationale, or the National Liberation Front.

Hounded out of Algeria, he then moved to Tunis, where he was exiled for a long time and established the Moudjahid, or Freedom Fighter, magazine. He soon became a leading figure and spokesperson of the Algerian revolution.

He traveled throughout Africa and propagated his anti-colonial views. He also served as an ambassador to Ghana for the Provisional Algerian Government, or the GPRA. Though from the Antilles, Fanon often identified himself as Algerian.

Major Works, Their Ideas & Their Impact

Frantz Fanon’s major works include masterpieces such as Black Skins White Masks, The Wretched of the Earth, A Dying Colonialism, and Toward the African Revolution. Black Skins White Masks, which was published in 1952, did not become recognized till the late 1960s. Considered a pioneering work in the analysis of the psychology of colonialism, the book had Fanon exploring how the colonizer internalizes colonialism and its ideologies, and how colonized people internalize their inferiority and start aping their oppressors. The book thus serves as a significant treatise in racism and imperialism.

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A Dying Colonialism is more of a historical work, which offers a first-hand account of the Algerian revolution and showcases how the Algerian people successfully countered the French colonial government. Toward the African Revolution is primarily an anthology of essays and letters.

The Wretched of the Earth, which was published just prior to Fanon’s death, featured a preface by Jean Paul Sartre. It showcases a social-psychological analysis of colonialism, stressing on the connection between colonialism and the mind.

The work showcases his support of a marked revolt against colonial control. The book also shows his belief in socialism and his urge to rebuild national culture. The book focuses on a psychoanalytic analysis of mental disorders, linking them with the colonial mindset. The same idea of a connection between the mind and global politics was carried forward by later scholars such as Ngugi wa Thiongo.

His major ideas included concepts such as double consciousness and colonial alienation. Belonging to the schools of Marxism, Black existentialism, and existential phenomenology, he wrote on topics such as decolonization, postcolonialism, and the psychopathology of colonization.

His works have inspired liberation movements and other political revolts and organizations in countries such as Sri Lanka, Palestine, South Africa, and the US. His idea of community psychology stressed on the impact of integration of the mentally ill with their families and community members to cure them. He also contributed to the development of institutional psychotherapy while working at Saint-Alban during his residency, under the guidance of Francois Tosquelles and Jean Oury.

Death

Frantz Fanon died after a struggle with leukemia, on December 6, 1961, in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S. He was 36 years old at the time of his death.

He had, apparently, also traveled to the Soviet Union for his treatment but later moved back to Tunis. The CIA later arranged for his treatment at the National Institutes of Health in the US.

At the time of his death, he had assumed the name Ibrahim Fanon, a pseudonym he had used to enter a Roman hospital after being wounded in Morocco while fighting for the Algerian National Liberation Front.

His body initially lay in state in Tunisia, before he was buried in Algeria. His body was later moved to a martyr’s (Chouhada) graveyard at Aïn Kerma in Algeria.

Personal Life

Frantz Fanon was married to a French lady named Josie. The couple had a son, Olivier Fanon. Fanon also had a daughter named Mireille Fanon-Mendès France from a previous relationship.

In 1989, Josie committed suicide in Algiers. Mireille taught international law and conflict resolution and also served as the president of the Frantz Fanon Foundation.

Olivier served as the president of the Frantz Fanon National Association in Algiers since 2012.

Facts About Frantz Fanon

Frantz Fanon was known for his love of literature and poetry, and he often used literary references in his works to convey complex ideas about colonialism and liberation.

Despite his serious academic pursuits, Fanon had a playful side and enjoyed practical jokes and light-hearted conversations with friends and colleagues.

Fanon was a skilled painter and often used art as a form of self-expression and therapy to cope with the struggles he faced as a black man living in a colonial society.

Fanon was a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and believed in the importance of addressing psychological trauma resulting from colonial oppression.

Fanon had a deep appreciation for music and was known to relax by listening to jazz and traditional African music, finding inspiration and solace in the rhythms and melodies.

See the events in life of Frantz Fanon in Chronological Order

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