“Literary Midwife: Jessie Fauset and the Harlem Renaissance”

Jessie Fauset by Laura Wheeler Waring

 

Jessie Redmon Fauset started her career after reading T.S. Stribling’s novel Birthright (1922). This novel about Black life written by a white man introduced fallacies to the public, influenced Fauset among others to write about their experiences as people of color for a more accurate account.

Fauset joined W.E.B DuBois and Alain Locke at the NAACP’s The Crisis as editor. She became known for her unique focus on the African-American experience. Throughout her career, she received criticism for her position as a middle-class educated woman of mixed race. The politics of identity and intersectionality pushed Jessie Fauset’s work and voice to the fringe in the mid-20th century.

The Crisis copyTheorizing that while Black community had flaws, there was no comparison to the inhumane practices adopted by the White community. Jessie hoped to spread pride of her heritage through her poetry and novels.

“In this darker world… there is ignorance and poverty and misery, but at least there are not hands dripping with another people’s blood, hearts filled with hypocrisy, homes gorgeously outfitted but reared over the graves of helpless slaves. And so they dare no become complacent, these dark folk are suddenly content to be black”

Jessie Fauset, Langston Hughes & Zora Neale Hurston:B.T.WashingtonMost importantly, Jodan and Cowan explain, Jessie Fauset wrote to educate black youth rather than to impress biased white people, highlighting successful black figures as role models. One of the many reasons for this was inspired by the overwhelming emphasis on white figures in public school history.

As the first Black Woman to attend Cornell University and one of the few women in her field at the time, she provided a political statement that paved the way for radical literature and black history.

Literary Midwife by Jodan & Cowan

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