Frantz Fanon

French West Indian psychiatrist and philosopher (1925–1961)

Frantz Omar Fanon (20 July 19256 December 1961) was a psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionist and author from Martinique. He was influential in the field of post-colonial studies and was perhaps the pre-eminent thinker of the 20th century on the issue of decolonization and the psychopathology of colonization. His works have inspired anti-colonial liberation movements for more than four decades.

Frantz Fanon (1959)
1913 Map of Africa


  • We are nothing on earth if we are not in the first place the slaves of a cause, the cause of the peoples, the cause of justice and liberty.
    • Letter to Roger Tayeb, December 1961, as cited in Peter Geismar, Fanon (1971), p. 185.
  • Every veil that fell, every body that became liberated from traditional embrace of the haik, every face that offered itself to the bold and impatient glance of the occupier, was a negative expression of the fact that Algeria was beginning to deny herself and was accepting the rape of the colonizer.

Peau noire, masques blancs

Page numbers from the 1967 English translation by Charles Lam Markmann

  • Why write this book? No one has asked me for it.
    Especially those to whom it is directed.
    Well? Well, I reply quite calmly that there are too many idiots in this world. And having said it, I have the burden of proving it.
    • Introduction, page 7
  • At risk of arousing the resentment of my colored brothers, I will say that the black is not a man. There is a zone of nonbeing, an extraordinary sterile and arid region, an utterly naked declivity where an authentic upheaval can be born. In most cases, the black man lacks the advantage of being able to accomplish this descent into real hell.
    • Introduction, page 8
  • The black is a black man;that is, as the result of a series of aberrations of affect, he is rooted at the core of a universe from which he must be extricated.
    • Introduction, page 8
  • Fervor is the weapon of choice of the impotent.
    • Introduction, page 9
  • The black man wants to be white. The white man slaves to reach a human level.
    • Introduction, page 9
  • By refusing to multiply our element, we take the risk of not setting a limit to our field ; for it is essential to convey to the black man that an attitude of rupture has never saved anyone.
    • Ch. 1, p. 28
  • What is there to say? Purely and simply this: When a bachelor of philosophy from Antilles refuses to apply for certification as a teacher on the ground of his color. I say that philosophy has never saved anyone. Wren one else strives and strains to prove to me that black men are as intelligent as white men, I say that intelligence has never saved anyone; and that is true, for, if philosophy and intelligence are invoked to proclaim the equality of men, they have also been employed to justify the extermination of men .
    • p. 28-29
  • A white man addressing a Negro behaves exactly like an adult with a child and starts smirking, whispering, patronizing, cozening. It is not one white man I have watched, but hundreds; and I have not limited my investigation to any one class but, if I may claim an essentially objective position, I have made a point of observing such behavior in physician, policemen, employers.
    • pp. 31
  • To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture.
    • pp. 38
  • Man is motion toward the world and toward his like. A movement of aggression, which leads to enslavement or to conquest; a movement of love, a gift of self, the ultimate stage of what by common accord is called ethical orientation. Every consciousness seems to have the capacity to demonstrate these two components, simultaneously or alternatively. The person I love will strengthen me by endorsing my assumption of my manhood, while the need to earn the admiration or the love of others will erect a value-making superstructure on my whole vision of the world.
    • Chapter 2, "The Woman of Color and the White Man", p. 41
  • The childhood of Mayotte Capécia shows us a certain number of characteristics that illustrate the line of orientation she followed as an adult. And each time there is a movement or a contact, it will have a direct relation to her goal. It would seem indeed that for her white and black represent the two poles of a world, two poles in perpetual conflict: a genuinely Manichean concept of the world; the word has been spoken, it must be remembered—white or black, that is the question.
    I am white: that is to say I possess beauty and virtue, which have never been black. I am the color of daylight....
    I am black: I am the incarnation of a complete fusion with the world, an intuitive understanding of the earth, an abandonment of my ego in the heart of the cosmos, and no white man, no matter how intelligent he may be , can ever understand Louis Armstrong and the music of the Congo. If I am black, it is not the result of a curse, but it is because, having offered my skin, I have been able to absorb all the cosmic effluvia. I am truly a ray of sunlight under the earth...
    • p. 44-45
  • Negrophobes exist. It is not hatred of the Negro, however, that motivates them; they lack the courage for that, or they have lost it. Hate is not inborn; it has to be constantly cultivated, to be brought into being, in conflict with more or less recognized guilt complexes. Hate demands existence and he who hates has to show his hate in appropriate actions and behavior; in a sense, he has to become hate. That is why Americans have substituted discrimination for lynching. Each to his own side of the street.
    • p. 53
  • The Negro enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his superiority alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation.
    • p. 60
  • In no way should my color be regarded as a flaw. From the comment the Negro accepts the separation imposed by the European he has no further respite, and "is it not understandable that thenceforward he will try to elevate himself to the white man's level? to elevate himself in the range of colors to which he attributes a kid of hierarchy.
    We shall see that another solution is possible. It implies a restructuring of the world.
    • Ch.3, p. 81-82
  • What is South Africa? A boiler into which thirteen million blacks are clubbed and penned in by two and a half million whites. If the poor whites hate the Negroes, it is not, as M. Mannoni would have us believe, because "racialism is the work of petty officials, small traders, and colonials who have toiled much without great success." No; it is because the structure of South Africa is a racist structure.
    • Ch.4, p.87
  • All forms of exploitation resemble one another. They all seek the source of their necessity in some edict of a Biblical nature. All forms of exploitation are identical because all of them are applied against the same "object": man.
    • p. 88
  • Every one of my acts commits me as a man. Every one of my silences, every one of my cowardices reveals me as a man.
    • p.89
  • Yes, European civilization and its best representatives are responsible for colonial racism.
    • p. 90
  • I said just above that South Africa has a racist structure. Now I shall go farther and say that Europe has a racist structure.
    • p. 92
  • The landing of the white man on Madagascar inflicted injury without measure. The consequences of that irruption of Europeans onto Madagascar were not psychological alone, since, as every authority has observed, there are inner relationships between consciousness and the social context.
    • p. 97
  • "Dirty nigger!" Or simply, "Look! A Negro!"
    I came into the world imbued with the will to find a meaning in things, my spirit filled with the desire to attain to the source of the world, and then I found that I was an object in the midst of other objects.
    • opening lines of chapter 5: "The Lived Experience of the Black Man" (also translated as "The Fact of Blackness" in some editions of the book), p. 109
  • The Negro is a toy in the white man's hands; so, in order to shatter the hellish cycle, he explodes.
    • p. 140
  • In every society, in every collectivity, exists - a channel, an outlet through which the forces accumulated in the form of aggression.
    • Ch.6, p.144
  • In the magazines the Wolf, the Devil, the Evil Spirit, the Bad Man, the Savage are always symbolized by Negroes or Indians; sinc there is always identification with the citor, the little negro, quite as easily as the little white boy, becomes an explorer, an adventurer, a missionary " who faces the danger of being eaten by the wicked Negroes."
    • p. 146
as translated by Richard Philcox (2004)
  • As soon as they are born it is obvious to them that their cramped world, riddled with taboos, can only be challenged by out and out violence.
    • p. 3
    • Alternate translation: From birth it is clear to him that this narrow world, strewn with prohibitions, can only be called in question by absolute violence.
  • The serf is essentially different from the knight, but a reference to divine right is needed to justify this difference in status.
    • p. 5
  • When the colonized hear a speech on Western culture they draw their machetes or at least check to see they are close to hand. The supremacy of white values is stated with such violence, the victorious confrontation of these values with the lifestyle and beliefs of the colonized is so impregnated with aggressiveness, that as a counter measure the colonized rightly make a mockery of them whenever they are mentioned.
    • p. 8
  • The famous dictum which states that all men are equal will find its illustration in the colonies only when the colonized subject states he is equal to the colonist.
    • p. 9
  • To destroy the colonial world means nothing less than demolishing the colonist's sector, burying it deep within the earth or banishing it from the territory.
    • p. 6
    • Alternate translation: The destruction of the colonial world is no more and no less that the abolition of one zone, its burial in the depths of the earth or its expulsion from the country.
  • The Church in the colonies is a white man's Church, a foreigners' Church. It does not call the colonized to the ways of God, but to the ways of the white man, to the ways of the master, the ways of the oppressor.
    • p. 7
  • The basic confrontation which seemed to be colonialism versus anticolonialism, indeed capitalism versus socialism, is already losing its importance. What matters today, the issue which blocks the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity will have to address this question, no matter how devastating the consequences may be.
    • p. 55
  • The living expression of the nation is the collective consciousness in motion of the entire people.
    • p. 144

Quotes about Fanon

  • This has recently been stressed by Barbara Deming in her plea for nonviolent action-"On Revolution and Equilibrium," in Revolution: Violent and Nonviolent, reprinted from Liberation, February, 1968. She says about Fanon, on p. 3: "It is my conviction that he can be quoted as well to plead for nonviolence.... Every time you find the word 'violence' in his pages, substitute for it the phrase 'radical and uncompromising action.' I contend that with the exception of a very few passages this substitution can be made, and that the action he calls for could just as well be nonviolent action."
  • Frantz Fanon pointed out in Black Skin, White Masks, that the anti-Semitic was eventually the anti-negro. I want to say that eventually both are antifeminist and even further, I want to indicate that all discrimination is essentially the same thing – anti-humanism. That is my charge to those of you in the audience this morning, whether you are male or female.
  • Fanon argued that culture was dynamic and could be transformed by struggles in which people individually and collectively assumed full responsibility for their destiny.
  • There has never been a moment when reading Freire that I have not remained aware of not only the sexism of the language but the way he (like other progressive Third World political leaders, intellectuals, critical thinkers such as Fanon, Memmi, etc.) constructs a phallocentric paradigm of liberation-wherein freedom and the experience of patriarchal manhood are always linked as though they are one and the same. For me this is always a source of anguish for it represents a blind spot in the vision of men who have profound insight.
    • bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994)
  • Over cups of coffee in my home in Atlanta and my apartment in Chicago, I often talked late at night and over into the small hours of the morning with proponents of Black Power who argued passionately about the validity of violence and riots. They didn't quote Gandhi or Tolstoy. Their Bible was Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. This black psychiatrist from Martinique, who went to Algeria to work with the National Liberation Front in its fight against the French, argued in his book-a well-written book, incidentally, with many penetrating insights-that violence is a psychologically healthy and tactically sound method for the oppressed. And so, realizing that they are a part of that vast company of the "wretched of the earth," young American Negroes, who were involved in the Black Power movement, often quoted Fanon's belief that violence is the only thing that will bring about liberation. The plain, inexorable fact was that any attempt of the American Negro to overthrow his oppressor with violence would not work. We did not need President Johnson to tell us this by reminding Negro rioters that they were outnumbered ten to one. The courageous efforts of our own insurrectionist brothers, such as Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner, should be eternal reminders to us that violent rebellion is doomed from the start. Anyone leading a violent rebellion must be willing to make an honest assessment regarding the possible casualties to a minority population confronting a well-armed, wealthy majority with a fanatical right wing that would delight in exterminating thousands of black men, women, and children.
  • "The basic confrontation which seemed to be colonialism versus anticolonialism, indeed capitalism versus socialism, is already losing its importance," Frantz Fanon wrote in his 1961 masterwork, The Wretched of the Earth. "What matters today, the issue which blocks the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity will have to address this question, no matter how devastating the consequences may be." Climate change is our chance to right those festering wrongs at last-the unfinished business of liberation.
    • Naomi Klein This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (2014)
  • A Martinique-born psychiatrist named Frantz Fanon became an international figure after he wrote a book in 1961 called Les damnés de la terre. Translated into twenty-five languages, the book was read by U.S. college students under the title The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon had finished his French medical studies in Algeria in 1953, where he joined the Algerian National Front and became a leader in the fight for Algerian independence. This alone was credentials enough in the French youth movement that began in the late fifties by opposing French policy in Algeria. Independent Algeria, like Cuba, came to be regarded as a symbol of resistance to the established order of the world. Not a predictable anticolonialist tirade, Wretched of the Earth examines the psychology not only of colonialism, but of overthrowing colonialism and the kind of new man that is required to build a postcolonial society. By explaining the complexity of the inner struggle to break with colonialism, Wretched of the Earth wielded an important influence in the United States on the American civil rights movement, where it helped make the connection between oppressed American blacks trying to rise up from white rule and oppressed African Muslims trying to free themselves from Europeans. This was the theme of the Black Muslim movement, especially under Malcolm X, who like Fanon was born in 1925, but in 1965 had been murdered, it appeared, by fellow Black Muslims, though this was never proven. Black Muslim boxer Muhammad Ali, as he defied the white establishment, was often seen as a standard-bearer for emerging poor nations. Eldridge Cleaver called Ali “the black Fidel Castro of boxing.”
  • on the one hand, the contemporary societal positioning of US Latinxs demonstrates the familiar always already overdetermined nature of race-perhaps most strikingly articulated by Fanon (1967) as "the fact of Blackness," the disorienting ontological experience of existing as a racialized Other in advance of one's being. On the other hand, Latinxs are positioned in relation to a distinctive social tense of always not yet, or perhaps, never quite yet. If you would just learn English; no, unaccented English; no, the right of English. If you would just enter the country the right way; no, get in verse a pathway to citizenship; no, act like a good citizen. This is a racialized social sense of the always already and never quite yet.
    • Jonathan Rosa, Looking Like a Language, Sounding Like a Race: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and the Learning of Latinidad (2019)
  • A theorization of what it means to look like a language and sound like a race can be found in the opening chapter of Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks, titled "The Negro and Language": “The problem that we confront in this chapter is this: The Negro of the Antilles will be proportionately Whiter-that is, he will come closer to being a real human being-in direct ratio to his mastery of the French Language.... What we are getting at becomes plain: Mastery of language affords remarkable power.... The Black man who has lived in France for a length of time returns radically changed. To express it in genetic terms, his phenotype undergoes a definitive, an absolute mutation.” (1967:18-19) Fanon's evocative description of interactions in the French Caribbean context speaks to the powerful ways that categories of language and race become iconic of one another, such that linguistic practices can shape one's racial ontology.
    • Jonathan Rosa, Looking Like a Language, Sounding Like a Race: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and the Learning of Latinidad (2019)
  • It is crucial to build from Fanon's account to rethink the construction and navigation of boundaries associated with categories of language and identity. The status of French in particular Caribbean contexts in the previous Fanonian example is not entirely unlike English language hegemony in the United States, which relies heavily on schools as flagship institutions for language standardization. This positions standardized English both as an institutional norm and aspiration. While school actors used different varieties of Spanish and English, standardized English was understood as the normative language variety for official business. Most school-wide announcements were made in English, and all formal staff meetings were conducted in English. Meanwhile, the majority of school employees perceived as Spanish-dominant occupied subordinate hierarchical positions as security guards, custodians, and lunchroom workers. This reflects the structural stigmatization of the Spanish language.
    • Jonathan Rosa, Looking Like a Language, Sounding Like a Race: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and the Learning of Latinidad (2019)


  • Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief.
    • Actually from a 2008 article on in which the author discusses an explanation given by a therapist friend. The quote has since been attributed to Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks on the internet as well as a few published books, but a google books search shows no examples of books attributing the quote to Fanon prior to 2013, and those that give a specific page number have conflicting information, for example this book attributes it to p. 194 of the 1967 translation of Fanon's book, this book attributes it to p. 119, and this book attributes it to the back cover. A reprint of the 1967 English translation of Black Skin, White Masks can be borrowed on (the copyright page gives the copyright date as 1967, but at the bottom says this edition is a 1982 reprint), the quote does not appear on any of the claimed page numbers.
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