"I am black; I am in total fusion with the world, in sympathetic affinity with the earth, losing my id in the heart of the cosmos -- and the white man, however intelligent he may be, is incapable of understanding Louis Armstrong or songs from the Congo. I am black, not because of a curse, but because my skin has been able to capture all the cosmic effluvia. I am truly a drop of sun under the earth." — Frantz Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks)
Frantz Fanon was born to middle-class parents on the Caribbean island of Martinique on July 20, 1925. While attending high school at the prestigious Lycee Schoelscher he studied under poet Aime Cesaire who became a life-long mentor.
In 1940 pro-Nazi Vichy French troops were stationed in Martinique, a French Colony Racial conflicts arose between the colonial troops and the islanders, often escalating into violence. After high school, Fanon left Martinique to join the Free French Forces, serving in Casablanca, Algeria and France, where he won the Croix de Guerre.
After the war, Fanon studied medicine and philosophy in France, and was licensed as a psychiatrist in 1951. The next year he published his first book, Black Skin, White Masks. It was an expansion of his rejected doctoral dissertation on the damaging effects of European colonialism on persons of color.
Fanon took a staff position at the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital in Algeria, where his therapy with patients took their Arabic culture and the impact of racism into account. At the outbreak of the Algerian revolution he joined the national liberation movement, FLN, and was exiled from the country in 1957. From Tunis he continued to write, and was appointed FLN ambassador to Ghana in 1960 and attended conferences throughout the continent.
After being diagnosed with leukemia, Fanon wrote his final book, The Wretched of the Earth. In the preface, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that it was "not a book for white people but white people should have the courage to read to come to a greater understanding of what is at stake for the oppressed in a world dominated by ignorant and racist first world European people."
Fanon died in Bethesda, Maryland, on December 6, 1961, and was buried in Algeria. His work was a major influence on civil rights activists Huey Newton and Malcolm X.