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Jessie Redmon Fauset was born April 27, 1882, in Camden County, New Jersey. Shortly after her birth, the Fauset family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she grew up. She did not grow up in a wealthy household. Her parents emphasized the value of education. As a result, she took her education seriously.
Fauset attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls, an esteemed school. She was often the only Black student in her classes. She had hoped to attend Bryn Mawr College but the school expressed apprehension about accepting their first Black student. Instead of rejecting her outright, Bryn Mawr College assisted her in securing a scholarship to attend Cornell University.
While attending Cornell, Fauset was asked to join Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. She graduated in 1905 and began pursuing a career as a teacher. Throughout the Philadelphia school system, she was denied teaching opportunities due to her race. She wasable to teach regardless of her race, however, in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
By 1912, Fauset had begun submitting reviews, essays, poems, and short stories to The Crisis, a magazine founded by activist, W. E. B. Du Bois. By 1919, Du Bois had convinced her to embrace the role of literary editor for the publication. During the Harlem Renaissance, she encouraged fellow writers like Langston Hughes and Claude McKay to write for The Crisis. She continued to write pieces for the publication as well.
While editing for The Crisis, Fauset also served as the co-editor for The Brownies’ Book. The Brownies’ Book was a monthly publication that ran from 1920 to 1921. The publication sought to teach Black children about their heritage and history.
After reading a White author’s negative and inaccurate portrayal of Black people, Fauset was inspired to write her own novel. She wrote There Is Confusion, which follows Black characters in a middle-class setting. It proved difficult to get her novel published until 1924.
Fauset discontinued her employment with The Crisis in 1926. From there, she pursued a career in publishing but was rejected because of her race. She offered to work from home so that her race wouldn’t pose an issue but was still denied employment. She returned to teaching and wrote three more novels: Plum Bum(1929), The Chinaberry Tree(1931), and Comedy: American Style(1933). The last two novels were not too successful. From there, her efficacy to write abated.
Continuing to teach, Fauset married a businessman named Herbert Harris in 1929. They lived in New Jersey until he died in 1958. Jessie Redmon Fauset returned to Philadelphia where she died on April 30, 1961. She was 79 years old. Her support for up-and-coming Black writers, as well as her written contributions, made her a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and Black history in its entirety.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer. Thank you.**