Document Type


Date of Award



College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS)

Degree Name

MA in English

First Advisor

Professor Betty T. Thompson


Novelist, poet, short story writer, biographer, essayist, and literary critic, Jessie Redmon Fauset played a pivotal role in the Harlem Renaissance. Although she was in her early forties at the height of the Renaissance, she played a dual role by creating her own body of work and by mentoring younger writers. Fauset did not possess the characteristics generally associated with the Renaissance: she was older, reserved in demeanor, meaningfully employed, and her lifestyle was not bohemian in nature. This background gave birth to Fauset's preoccupation with skin color, the issue of "passing" and the African American's search for identify. For many blacks, the search for identity began when their ancestors were captured in their homeland, in some cases by their own countrymen, and shipped to other countries as slaves. They were shackled 1 2 and forced into an inferior existence, and then compelled to assimilate into a culture that was not their own. Essentially, their imposed environment compelled African-Americans to search for their own identities in a strange and foreign world. For black women this was especially true. Their sense of detachment, spawned by their disconnection to a new world, forced many blacks to develop an escape mechanism to achieve self-fulfillment. The sacrifices that black women experienced were due to the oppressive and agonizing lives that they had to endure, simply because of the color of their skin. This paper will supply its readers with an in-depth analysis of the African American woman as depicted in history annals and the literary canons of women writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Fauset depicted characters who suffered oppression and ostracism based upon gender, race and class. These universal themes have presented themselves in various works of African-American writers, and answer the question-Why do some black women prefer to live in a world where psychological personae are based on an escape from reality? The purpose of this study is to establish the impact of Jessie Fauset's contributions toward restoring visibility to the lives of African-American women and explore the literary techniques used by Fauset to expose the victimization of Black women during the Harlem Renaissance, and how characters in her novels, particularly Plum Bun, expertly developed strategies for self-actualization, fulfillment, and an individual consciousness to support the empowerment of the African American woman. Pertinent to this study is an exploration of dominant ideologies of the Harlem Renaissance and how Jessie Fauset and other prominent African-American women writers of that era utilized the history of slavery to generate a positive identity for Black 3 women. The sources used for reference will be: anthologies, primary texts, biographies, and literary criticism. References from noted critics Jacquelyn McClendon and Patricia Hill Collins will be used to support the basic premises of this study. Jessie Fauset's literary work came with recuperative efforts, as Black women examined their psychological reactions under varying conditions of sexual and racial socialization and as historians examined the legacy of slavery, a that legacy carried special significance for Black women who have had to struggle for control of their own bodies. With these examinations have come the realities of the Black experience security, happiness, and sense of identity come when one accepts herself or himself. Reality requires that a person must believe in her or himself. Self-confidence must come from within. As literary critic Deborah MacDowell has noted that critiques have moved Fauset's books out of the realm of fairy tale and into the tradition of narrative disguise that is so prevalent in women's literature. As such, Fauset's novel represents an important link in the history of women's writing, and opens to readers a window into the lives and concerns of American women during the early part of the 20th century