The Public Interest

The Americanization of Frantz Fanon

Aristide Zolberg & Vera Zolberg

Fall 1967

The awesome presence Ralph Ellison conjured up twenty years ago is in our midst. But the Destroyer has moved with the times. In the Harlem of the twenties and thirties, he was an Ethiopian prince; in the Chicago South Side of the fifties, he was Jomo Freedom Kenyatta; today he still sometimes wears an animal skin, but more often a sweatshirt printed with the new symbols of a militant Third World. Now he is the warrior of Islam launching a new Jihad; he is the Black Panther; he is Simba, the Congolese lion, marching on Stanleyville. His weapons have been modernized too: no more sticks, clubs, and shotguns, but a precision rifle with telescope sight and a Molotov cocktail. Like a good Fidelista or Maoist, he completes his panoply with a book. Or at least some who dream of leading the Black Guard have this vision. “You’re going along thinking all the brothers in these riots are old winos,” Dan Watts, the editor of Liberator magazine told Jimmy Breslin of the Chicago Sun-Times after Newark and Detroit. “Nothing could be further from the truth. These cats are ready to die for something. And they know why. They all read. Read a lot. Not one of them hasn’t read the Bible.” “The Bible? .... Fanon….You’d better get this book. Every brother on a rooftop can quote Fanon.”

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