Jessie Redmon Fauset

Jessie Redmon Fauset, poet, editor, essayist and novelist, saw the Harlem Renaissance as a historical educational opportunity. For her it was a chance to tell the stories of African Americans through the lens of other blacks and not through the lens of white writers.

Fauset was born on April 27, 1882 in Camden County, New Jersey. She attended Cornell University where she became the first African American woman elected to the academic honorary society, Phi Beta Kappa.

Following her graduation from Cornell, Fauset moved to Washington, DC and taught high school for several years. She moved to New York in 1912 and became a literary contributor to The Crisis Magazine, a publication of the NAACP. Fauset later became the magazine’s literary editor. She was an influential editor and used that influence to turn the magazine into a major publishing channel for black writers. She also used her influence to develop the work of several young writers including Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Claude McKay.

Jessie Redmon Fauset also published her own work which consisted of short stories, essays, poems and literary reviews. She was inspired to write a novel after reading one by a white author in which African Americans were caricatured. Her first, There is Confusion, about a middle class black family was published in 1924.

Fauset would write three more novels featuring black middle class characters. She once said the goal in her writing was to present “the homelife of the Colored American,” without the melodrama or caricature that she saw from white writers.