Arts & Entertainment

The Wretched of the Earth at 60

By Jonah Raskin, Counterpunch

H. Rap Brown didn’t credit Frantz Fanon in his famed 1967 speech on violence, though he might have. He was in a hurry and cities were burning. Fanon laid the groundwork for Rap in his 1961 book, The Wretched of the Earth, which inspired members of SNCC, plus Black Panthers, Weathermen and more. Near the peak of the Black Power movement, Brown Americanized Fanon and gave him an African-American inflection. “Violence is necessary,” he said. He elaborated, “Violence is a part of America’s culture. It is as American as cherry pie. Americans taught the black people to be violent. We will use that violence to rid ourselves of oppression if necessary. We will be free, by any means necessary.” That was the cry I heard everywhere, “By any means necessary.” That meant violence if need be.

Published 60 years ago in 1961 The Wretched of the Earth was one of the seminal works of the Sixties, in part because it came with an introduction by the French philosopher, novelist and Third World defender Jean-Paul Sartre. Like the names Marx and Engels, or Malcolm X and Alex Haley—the Black journalist who wrote Malcolm’s autobiography, and whose name is on the cover of Malcolm’s book—Fanon and Sartre have been linked in the pages of revolutionary history and legend for the last six decades.

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