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Black History NJ: Jessie Redmon Fauset

The 1920s Harlem Renaissance spawned a number of incredible voices and artists. Among the impressive list is New Jersey’s own Jessie Redmon Fauset, who found success as a poet, essayist, novelist, teacher, and editor throughout her long lifetime.

On April 27, 1884, Jessie Redmon Fauset was born in Camden County, NJ. Fauset faced a number of obstacles growing up, but managed to overcome each, including becoming the first African American to graduate from the Philadelphia High School for Girls. Her hard work and determination led to a scholarship with Cornell University, from where she graduated in 1905 with a degree in classic languages; she later received a Master’s Degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania.

Post Graduation

After graduation, Fauset became a teacher at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. Then, in 1918, Fauset became a contributor to The Crisis, the official magazine for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). A year later, she was asked to join the magazine full-time as their Literary Editor.

Jessie Redmon FausetFauset published pieces by some of the most popular voices from the Harlem Renaissance, including Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer. Fauset was also the first person to publish a piece by Langston Hughes; Hughes later gave Fauset her nickname as the “midwife” of the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to her editing duties, Fauset also contributed poems, short stories, and other writings to The Brownies’ Book; the first magazine published specifically for African-American children.

After 8 years, Fauset left The Crisis to return to teaching, this time at DeWitt Clinton High School in NYC. She married an insurance broker named Herbert Harris in 1929, and afterwards the couple moved to Montclair; at which point, they lived very quiet lives. Then, on April 30, 1961 – three years after her husband’s passing – Fauset herself died of heart disease.

Through her writings and teachings, Jessie Redmon Fauset became a powerful voice throughout the Harlem Renaissance. She also contributed to the success of other writers and artists, fueling the Harlem Renaissance into an even stronger movement. She published several intellectual novels and is a highly regarded writer in American history, standing as just another great example of New Jersey’s excellence.

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Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Carly Weaver / Best of NJ
Additional Image Courtesy: Blackpast.org