“The Democracy for Which We Have Paid”
Jessie Fauset and World War I Controversies in the
African American Press
… when, after the shock of terrific warfare, the world has not yet found its balance—when, in the midst of confusion, justice and truth call loudly for the democracy for which we have paid.
—Addie W. Hunton and Kathryn M. Johnson
Jessie Fauset's remarkable career at The Crisis, her editorial support for Harlem Renaissance writers, and her wide-ranging knowledge of the press do not reconcile well with critical accounts of her accommodationist fiction. 1(The controversy over Fauset's fiction is detailed in chapter 4.) Hired by W. E. B. Du Bois, Fauset helped shape the journal of the NAACP, which had the largest readership of any African American periodical in this period (Wall, Women 35). As columnist, literary editor, and managing editor (in Du Bois's absence), Fauset's role at The Crisis would have put her in touch with the major intellectual trends of her era. Unfortunately, contemporary critics have discussed Fauset's role as a journalist almost exclusively in terms of her literary patronage and have largely ignored the political significance of her work. Like many other African American journalists, Fauset contributed to a range of debates over equal rights and citizenship during and after World War I. 1
Born in 1882, Fauset grew up in Philadelphia. She graduated from Cornell University, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1905, took courses at the Sorbonne, and finished M.A. coursework in Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania. After teaching at the prestigious M Street High School in Washington, D.C., she worked for The Crisis as columnist or literary editor from 1918 to 1926 and also edited a children's magazine with Du Bois and Agustus Dill, entitled The Brown-