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Saturday, April 13, 2019

New Jersey Black Women’s History Month, Part II

Jessie Redmon Fauset was a New Jersey native and an innovator who advocated for new models for black racial characters in literature. As a female black editor, writer and educator in the first third of the 20th century, her literary talents impacted the evolving 1920's Harlem Renaissance to elevate and expand public perceptions of the American Black experience to images beyond that of a life of servitude. Decades ahead of other authors, she was a literary neoteric whose themes frequently focused on giving a voice to black working professionals, which was generally a new concept to the broad American public at that time. Her writings not only portrayed nuances of difficult black middle class daily struggles, but the reality of a wider spectrum of black lifestyles in the 1920's. Her authorship gave hope and promise to blacks who had not yet made it to the middle class and addressed issues of race and feminism.

A self-made professional, she had been born into a life of poverty in a large family in 1882 in an all black village then called Fredericksville in Camden County, New Jersey, as described. She was the seventh child born of her mother and an African Methodist Episcopal minister. Sadly, Jessie Redmon Fauset’s mother died when she was very young. Her father remarried to a woman who brought three of her own children into the marriage. Ms. Fauset then had six siblings and three half siblings. Although poor, both of her parents emphasized education for their nine children. Jessie Redmon Fauset was still a child when her father died and she had 2 half siblings under the age of five.

Undaunted by the circumstances into which she was born, she studied hard and made her way into matriculating at Philadelphia’s leading academic educational institution, the Philadelphia High School for Girls, where she graduated as the valedictorian of her class and with the distinction of being the high school's first black graduate. She encountered resistance to being admitted to Bryn Mawr College, her first choice of schools, because of issues of admitting blacks, but she secured a scholarship for another university, and she continued her education at Cornell University in New York.  She graduated from Cornell in 1905 with a degree in classical languages. She subsequently earned her master's degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania. At that time, Washington, DC, had a segregated public school system, and she taught at a high school for black students and later studied at the at la Sorbonne.

Fauset’s influence through her work and writings exploded in 1919 when she left teaching to accept the distinguished position as literary editor for The Crisis. [It was through her work as literary editor at the premier publication for black culture, The Crisis, published as the voice of the NAACP that she became known for her literary and artistic impact on and of blacks and black culture during the Harlem Renaissance.

The Crisis, founded in 1910 by the famous civil rights leader W. E. B. Du Bois, is the oldest magazine in the world continuing in uninterrupted publication that is tailored to blacks.   It is an intellectual and innovative quarterly journal of black history, politics and culture, challenging generally accepted social concepts and educating its readers. Jessie Redmon Fauset served as literary editor for The Crisis until 1926 and her position as editor as well as her four novels and numerous essays deeply affected hopes and aspirations of others.

The Flourishing of Black Writers and Art During the Harlem Renaissance Can be Largely Attributed to the Influence of Jessie Redmon Fauset.

The flourishing of black writers and art during the Harlem Renaissance was due in large part to the influence that Fauset had as literary editor of The Crisis. Although the publication was first conceived by its founder as a political news publication, Fauset had the vision to see that as a literary publication it could have a wider ranging social impact on black culture through the writings and arts of the cultural movement happening at that time.

Fauset's vision as its literary editor, exerted influence on the evolving black cultural phenomena, the Harlem Renaissance, by promoting literary works relating to the black cultural movements of her time. Through her work with other black authors directly and indirectly as their editor and reviewer, she motivated them to write authentically and freely about the true black experience and exhorted them to be candid in their descriptions. For over a decade she dissuaded black authors from downplaying the unique racial attributes of the characters in their literature. She advocated for a new type of positive realism in their literary depictions of the black individual experience and black community. This included expanding the boundaries to write about the idiosyncrasies of life in the new black middle class which expanded in Harlem during this period.

She was inspired to portray black life both realistically and positively, exploring the lives of the black middle class in ways that had not been written about prior.  She believed there was an absence of positive depictions of black lives in literature and that novels written by whites could not adequately portray the lives of blacks. She sought to correct this absence in her work as editor and reviewer, in her essays, and her authoring four novels published during the 1920s and 1930s.

The persons she portrayed in her writings were fictional. Her characters were working black professionals, which was a strange and unheard-of concept to general society during this period. Her writings helped to change that perception. As a major editor, reviewer, writer and contributor to black literature, her pen yielded much power, giving momentum to the changes taking place during the Harlem Renaissance.

The Crisis had irrefutable impact and was harbinger for the black cultural phenomena, the Harlem Renaissance. Although W. E. B. Du Bois, its founder, had received most of the esteem associated with this publication, it was during the period Jessie Redmon Fauset served as its Literary Editor from 1918 to 1926, that it most influenced the black literary and arts movement.

It was primarily during Jessie Redmond Fauset's tenure that black literature abounded. Though not nearly as well-known today as Du Bois, Fauset's literary contributions were equal in importance. Some of the best-known writers of the Harlem Renaissance were first published or became well-known by being published in The Crisis during Fauset's tenure.

If You Are Thinking of Simply Resigning

If you are thinking of simply resigning because of race discrimination in your workplace and/or because you notified your employer about racial harassment and no action was taken, you should contact an attorney experienced in employment law before you do so, to explore your legal options in the safest way for you.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons who were subjected to racial harassment and retaliation in the workplace and/or were fired. If you have experienced racism at work, or if you reported it and no action was taken, if you are thinking of resigning, or think you will be fired, or have been fired, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in discrimination.

If you are being subjected to workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in southern, central, western and northern NJ to meet with clients.

 

 

 


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