Born and raised on the island of Martinique, Ménil was one of several of the island's natives who studied in France and returned to influence the independence movement with the ideas of Marxism, and Surrealism. He also began the Antillanité movement.
In the early 1940s Ménil started a journal called Tropiques along with other notable Martinique writers such as Aimé Césaire. The publication spoke very strongly against French colonialism in its essays. To avoid retaliation from their powerful critics, they portrayed the magazine as a journal of West Indian folklore.
A professor and writer throughout his life, in 1981 Ménil published a book of essays entitled Tracées (ISBN 978-22-2100-633-7).