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Jessie Redmon Fauset

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Jessie Redmon Fauset
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Jessie Redmon Fauset was born on April 27, 1882, in Camden County, New Jersey. She grew up in Philadelphia and attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls. She received a scholarship to study at Cornell University, where she was likely the first black female student, and she graduated with a BA in classical languages in 1905. After college, she worked as a teacher in Baltimore and Washington, D. C.

In 1912, Fauset began to write for the NAACP’s official magazine, The Crisis, which was cofounded and edited by W. E. B. Du Bois. After several years contributing poems, essays, and reviews to The Crisis, Fauset became the journal’s literary editor in 1919, moving to New York City for the position.

In her role as literary editor, Fauset introduced then-unknown writers, including Countee CullenLangston HughesClaude McKay, and Anne Spencer, to a national audience. In his memoir The Big Sea, Langston Hughes writes, “Jessie Fauset at The Crisis, Charles Johnson at Opportunity, and Alain Locke in Washington were the three people who midwifed the so-called New Negro literature into being. Kind and critical—but not too critical for the young—they nursed us along until our books were born.”

Along with her poetry and short fiction in The Crisis, Fauset published several novels known for their portrayal of middle-class African American life, including There Is Confusion (Boni and Liveright, 1924) and Plum Bun (Matthews & Marrot, 1928). She also edited The Brownies’ Book, a periodical for African American children, from 1920 to 1921.

Fauset left The Crisis in 1926 to teach French at a high school in the Bronx. She married Herbert Harris, a businessman, in 1929, and they lived together in New Jersey until his death in 1958. Fauset then returned to Philadelphia, where she lived until her death on April 30, 1961.


Selected Prose

Comedy, American Style (Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1933)
The Chinaberry Tree: A Novel of American Life (Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1931)
Plum Bun (Matthews & Marrot, 1928)
There Is Confusion (Boni and Liveright, 1924)

by this poet

poem
On summer afternoons I sit
Quiescent by you in the park
And idly watch the sunbeams gild
And tint the ash-trees' bark.

Or else I watch the squirrels frisk
And chaffer in the grassy lane;
And all the while I mark your voice
Breaking with love and pain.

I know a woman who would give
Her chance of heaven to take
poem
If this is peace, this dead and leaden thing,
     Then better far the hateful fret, the sting.
Better the wound forever seeking balm
     Than this gray calm!

Is this pain's surcease? Better far the ache,
     The long-drawn dreary day, the night's white wake,
Better the choking sigh, the sobbing breath
poem
When April's here and meadows wide 
Once more with spring's sweet growths are pied 
    I close each book, drop each pursuit, 
    And past the brook, no longer mute, 
I joyous roam the countryside.

Look, here the violets shy abide 
And there the mating robins hide—
    How keen my sense, how acute, 
      When