JESSIE REDMON FAUSET was born on April 26, 1882, in Fredericksville, New Jersey, the seventh child of the Reverend Redmon Fauset and Anna Seamon Fauset.The Fausets were a prosperous, middle-class family. Jessie's mother died when she was very young, and her father married Belle Huff shortly thereafter. Upon graduating from the Philadelphia Girls' School in 1900, Fauset was denied admission to a local teachers' college. She applied to Bryn Mawr College, but the school delayed acceptance, urging her instead to take a scholarship offered by Cornell University. Fauset subsequently graduated from Cornell in 1905, Phi Beta Kappa and the school's first black alumna.
Fauset had planned to become a teacher but was denied a position in the Philadelphia school system. Instead, she taught in Baltimore for a year before going to Washington, D.C., where she taught French for 14 years at the M Street (later Dunbar) High School, an institution devoted exclusively to the preparation of black students for college.
In 1912, Fauset began contributing articles to the journal Crisis. Some of her poetry, written in French, came to the attention of editor W. E. B. Du Bois, who in 1919 urged her to move to New York and become the journal's literary editor.That same year, Fauset received a master's degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania. Fauset seemed to some a paradox: as an editor, she encouraged novels and poems about ghetto life, and her essays communicated both an enthusiasm and an anger that attracted young militant readers; as a novelist, however, she wrote only about the genteel life she knew best.
A member of the movement that became known as the Harlem Renaissance, Fauset was one of its most prolific writers of the genteel school. All four of her novels are concerned with racial prejudice and the position of the black middle class in a white society. There Is Confusion ( 1924), Fauset's first novel, is a prescient story about the struggle for equality by the rising black middle class in the early 20th century.The restricted vocational choices of all women of that period is one of its themes. Plum Bun ( 1929) is a novel about a black woman who "passes" as white and in so doing becomes estranged from her darker-skinned sister. The Chinaberry Tree ( 1931) describes the love affair of a freed slave and her white master. In Comedy: American Style ( 1933), Fauset again focuses upon the alienating effects of passing as