Jessie Redmon Fauset: "Midwife of African American Literature"

By Sophia Hill

external image fauset_jessie.jpgJessie was born on April 27th, 1882 as the Fauset's seventh child in Camden, New Jersey. She soon grew into a young woman and graduated from a high school for girls as the only African American attending. In 1905 Jessie graduated from Cornell University and continued her education at the University of Pennsylvania mastering in French. Before she became a Harlem Renaissance poet, Fauset was a latin and french teacher at multiple highschools. Throughout her career Jessie associated and helped build many famous Harlem artists. These artists include, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer. According to Langston Hughes, Jessie was known as the "mid-wife of African American Literture" because of her help in building the writers of the Harlem Renassance and the writing she gave herself.

Jessie Redmon Fauset fits into the Harlem Renaissance because she was determined to have rights, she was strong, and smart. This quote from Jessie shows the way she thought, “The white world is feverishly anxious to know of our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams. Organization is our strongest weapon." Fauset understood that blacks had to stay strong and together. With in time Jessie would help write books that encouraged freedom and sustained a base of what was to come. She built a beginning for the African Americans to follow through. Jessie Fauset probably knew she wanted to help and make a difference but would not know the strength her actions had.

Jessie died on April 30, 1961 only three years after her husband passed away. She lived a realtively long life filled with joy, strength, and hopefully, no regrets.

Dead Fires

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
Than passion's death!

To me this poem is talking about the ending of passion and rebelion that the blacks had against the whites. The person talking still believes that there is more to do and more to get from the situation. Fighting, rebeling, and helping gave them all something to do and something to belive in. When passion for something you really, truly want kicks in you will try your hardest to get it. When you lose that want and need you lose the thing you wanted too. To lose how you feel about something makes you forget why you wanted the thing in the first place. As each person sees the other lose the want they begin to, too. This all would simply end the not so appreciated peace that is talked about in this poem. This person, wants people to remember why they started fighting in the first place and why it was important.

This poem also says to me that peace came as a punishment instead of a blessing. You would think that people who had been discriminated against would want peace and less trouble but it seems that peace means nothing. Peace is not a symbol of good but of evil. It gives no fire, no passion, and nothing to do. The author is telling me that though there was hard times and hard things to go through it was all worth it for the image they were always fighting for, but now peace has taken it all away. On line three and four it says,"Better the wound forever seeking balm/ Than this gray calm!", to me this is re-enforcing the idea of no pain no gain. If you do not do anything to try and succeed then you will not get anything in return. Peace brings no need to try for something better but leaves you not knowing what else you can do.

Works Cited:

"Dead Fires - Written by the African American Writer Jessie Redmon Fauset "African American Poem"." black writers, black authors, famous black writers, african american writers, harlem renaissance, harlem renaissance poets, harlem renaissance poems, famous african american authors, black famous poets, harlem renaissance writers, harlem renaissance poetr. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <

Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Jessie Redmon Fauset." Women's History - Comprehensive Women's History Research Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <

"Jessie Redmon Fauset Quotes | Famous Jessie Redmon Fauset Quotations." Famous Quotes | Sayings and Quotes by Famous People. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2011.

"Jessie Redmon Fauset Quotes | Famous Jessie Redmon Fauset Quotations." Famous Quotes | Sayings and Quotes by Famous People. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2011.