Linden Lewis – “Fanon, De-alienation, and the African American Man” – March 24, 2011

This paper seeks to bring together the theoretical and philosophical discourse of Frantz Fanon’s work on Black Skin/White Masks, with the actions of the affirmation of blackness in the Sanitation Workers’ Strike in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.  The objective is to read the sanitation strike as being consistent with Fanon’s goal of serving to help the black man free himself of the arsenal of complexes that had developed in the context of the Jim Crow south.  The paper is an attempt to view the sanitation strike in Fanonian terms of de-alienation of the black man.  For Fanon, the issue of recognition is important, but to achieve this recognition one has to step outside of language and engage in action.  The Sanitation Workers’ strike with placards reading I Am A Man, sent a very clear message, that the struggle was not only one for economic justice but also one for respect, racial equality and human dignity.  The Sanitation Workers strike therefore represents an important example of the kind of transcendence of which Fanon spoke and therefore this paper contributes to a philosophical reading of the events of 1968 in Memphis as part of the discourse on black masculinity in the United States.

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