28 Days of Literary Blackness with VSB | Day 16: The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

Illustration for article titled 28 Days of Literary Blackness with VSB | Day 16: The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
Image: The Wretched of the Earth (Grove Atlantic

Publisher Synopsis: The Wretched of the Earth is a brilliant analysis of the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage and frustration of colonized peoples, and the role of violence in effecting historical change, the book incisively attacks the twin perils of post-independence colonial politics: the disenfranchisement of the masses by the elites on the one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other. Fanon’s analysis, a veritable handbook of social reorganization for leaders of emerging nations, has been reflected all too clearly in the corruption and violence that has plagued present-day Africa.


The Wretched of the Earth has had a major impact on civil rights, anti-colonialism, and black consciousness movements around the world, and this bold new translation by Richard Philcox reaffirms it as a landmark.

As I assume was the case for many of us, college is where I read most of the books that had a lasting impact on my life, especially those of a revolutionary nature. I read The Wretched of the Earth because it came up several times in one of my history classes and because it seemed to be a book that all of the most “woke” (whatever the term was for it in 1998) folks read. I loved the title; there’s something so visual about the term “wretched,” so I picked it up and dove into Fanon’s world.

The book talks about colonization and decolonization and re-establishing a nation and a culture to go along with it, effectively undoing the damage that has been done through colonization. Violence (simplistically) is at the forefront of the struggle and resistance and there really are no two ways about it. Books like this spoke to a young, angry and ready to rumble (I spoke a little of this in my detailing of where I was when I read Assata). It was during this time and during these readings that folks in my own family referred to me as “the blackest person they knew.” That could never not be a compliment to me.

For any person looking to read about revolutions and what that truly means in the context of undoing the damage that European imperialist rule imposed on African nations (in this book), and the world more generally, this is about as good (I’m using that term loosely, though the actual writing is brilliant) as it gets. It is a vital and uniquely important text in the canon of such books, so much so that the subtitle is stated quite appropriately as: The Handbook for the Black Revolution That is Changing the Shape of the World.

Super facts.

The Wretched of the Earth (1961) by Frantz Fanon

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



Thank you for this series; you are highlighting so many seminal works! And many, not just enlightened 20 yo’s (!), can get such solid intellectual building blocks from your list upon which they can launch themselves FORTIFIED into the real adult world! I was raised by parents who read these books and sat at their knees when their friends regularly discussed them.

The vim and vigor of my youth has roiled and burned to barely muted outrage and fury, depression, worry and ofttimes despair, at seeming to fight the good fight alone and misunderstood amongst my own people and vilified by The Others. My methods these days are not so much rageful protest, civil rights lawsuits and appealing to their better angels as careful analysis for the exploitation of the faultlines in their methods and direct confrontation of their delusion of supremacy.

Honestly, I don’t think the world could stand for me to re-read books like this. Talk about Make Me Wanna Holler!

Also, “there’s something so visual about the term “wretched”...

Agreed! Which is why I never liked the similar-sounding slang ‘ratchet’ as it’s always used to describe Black women looking bad and behaving badly, without compassion for the havoc that actual wretchedness has wreaked on their lives.