Arthur Huff Fauset papers
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
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Arthur Huff Fauset was born on 20 January 1899, in Flemington, New Jersey. He was the son of Redmon Fauset, a minister of the A.M.E. Church, and Bella White, who was the daughter of white, Jewish parents. Jessie Redmon Fauset was his half-sister.
Fauset was educated in the Philadelphia public school system and graduated from Boys Central High in 1916 and the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy in 1918. After a brief career as a teacher, he was appointed principal of the Joseph Singerly School in North Philadelphia. In the meantime, he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a B.A. in 1921, a M.A. in anthropology in 1924, and a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1942.
Fauset was first encouraged to write by Alain Locke in the 1920s. The young principal's first published work preceded the formally recognized years of the Harlem Renaissance. Fauset's short story, "Tales of the North Carolina Words," was written while he was a student of folklore at the University of Pennsylvania and appeared in The Crisis of January, 1922.
In 1925 Fauset was engaged in more folklore research. His work on "Folklore from the Half-breeds of Nova Scotia" appeared in the Journal of American Folklore, while three examples of his specialization were selected for Locke's The New Negro. The folktales "T'appin" and "Brer Buzzard" appeared in the anthology along with Fauset's essay, "American Negro Folk Literature." In addition to his three contributions to the body of the volume, Fauset also compiled the folklore section of its bibliography.
In 1926 Fauset won two awards from a contest sponsored by Opportunity: one for the best short story "Symphonesque" and another for the best essay "Segregation". In addition to winning the $100 Opportunity prize, "Symphonesque" also earned other distinctions. It was chosen for the O'Brien Best Short Stories of the Year for 1926 and also won the O. Henry Memorial Award for the same year.
In 1927 Fauset again published a study in Journal of American Folklore, "Negro Folk Tales from the South," and won another award: Honorable Mention in the literature category in the Harmon Awards of that year. In addition, 1927 brought the publication of Charles S. Johnson's anthology, Ebony and Topaz, with Fauset's short story, "Jumby," included. "Jumby" was the creative synthesis of a trip to the remote Caribbean island, Nevis, part of the extensive field research Fauset undertook while studying in the master's program in anthropology at Penn, through the West Indies, the American South, and Nova Scotia to study Black folklore.
Fauset's major interest in early 1927 was organizing and launching Philadelphia's own literary journal, Black Opals. It was the first Black-owned periodical devoted to literary work by Black and African Americans in Philadelphia since McGirt's Magazine, which lasted from 1905 to 1909. Black Opals first appeared in the spring of 1927; its last issue was Christmas 1928.
Fauset's tenure in the Philadelphia school system occurred at a time when promotion for Black professionals was virtually nonexistent. Despite the institutionalized racism and professional barriers he faced because of it, Fauset was one of the founders of the reorganized Philadelphia local branch of the American Federation of Teachers, and in the early days he served as one of its vice-presidents. With A. Philip Randolph he was also an administrator of the National Negro Congress, forerunner of the militant organizations of the 1950s and 1960s.
He founded the local United People's Action Committee (UPAC), which, together with the local NAACP, mapped the struggle against the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company which ended in President Roosevelt manning Philadelphia transportation with soldiers. The strike by transit employees against hiring Black transport workers was thereby broken, and a new era of hundreds and thousands of Black workers employed in the transit system was ushered in.
In 1942, although well beyond draft age, Arthur Huff Fauset volunteered for service in the armed forces. His objective was not only to fight for the cause of democracy, but also to become an officer in the service in hopes that he would then be able to help ordinary drafted service men. Having successfully passed arduous training at Fort McClallan, Alabama, he was selected to attend Officer Candidate School at Grinnell, Iowa. He successfully passed a difficult course of training, but on the very last day of the course a special order came down from the Adjutant General's office in Washington, D.C. As reported by the Pittsburgh Courier's investigating representative, the report said:
Candidate Arthur Huff Fauset has been engaged in various radical activities over a period covering many years. We have a dossier containing reports of numerous radical utterances he has made and of articles for newspapers which he has written. We are convinced he would not be a good influence in the Army, but to the contrary he would be harmful to the morale of the Army. Accordingly, we caused an order to be issued denying him the privilege of being an officer in the US Army.
Fauset returned to the Philadelphia school system and continued for several years as principal of the Douglass Singerly School. In 1946, however, he resigned his position and withdrew from public education. In the latter part of his life, Fauset pursued a career of research and creative writing. In 1969, with Nellie Rathbone Bright, he published a history textbook entitled America: Red, White, Black, Yellow. It was an attempt to expand and correct traditional history texts which tended to ignore or omit significant contributions to history and society by people who were not white.
On 2 September 1983, at age 84, Arthur Huff Fauset died in Philadelphia. He was survived by a sister, Marian Fauset, and a niece, Conchita Morrison.
- Fauset, Arthur Huff, 1899-1983 Fauset, Jessie Redmon Garvey, Marcus, d1887-1940 Locke, Alain LeRoy, d1886-1954 Bright, Nellie Rathbone Wears, Isaiah C., d1822-1901.
Although Arthur Huff Fauset had a notable professional network, was an ardent civil rights activist, and conducted extensive folklore research, surprisingly little remains in his papers regarding these relationships and pursuits. Instead, the bulk of this collection pertains to his endeavors as a creative writer.
The correspondence derives mostly from the 1960s and 1970s, although there is a selection of letters dating to the 1920s. Some of these earlier letters are from his mother; the few others concern publications. Within the Fauset papers are seven letters either to or from Alain Locke, from the years 1910, 1912, 1925, and 1950, and a photograph of Locke.
Fauset's half-sister, Jessie Redmon Fauset Harris, is represented by a photograph and an outline (typescript) of Junior Reading Book on Negro-White Relationships, written by her.
The majority of the material in the Fauset papers consists of drafts of various pieces of writing. These drafts include addresses, essays, lectures; monographs; novels; short stories; and a poem. Many of the individual works appear in multiple drafts: one item having as many as fifteen typescripts, as well as two manuscripts. Much of Fauset's published works can be found, most notably his dissertation for the University of Pennsylvania which was ultimately published by the University Press under the title, Black Gods of the Metropolis. There are twenty-one boxes of unpublished novels by Fauset. The first listed is referred to as "Autobiography." Fauset considered many titles and consistently maintained that it was not an autobiography, per se, but rather an "autobiographical novel." Other titles include "Immortal Schlemiel," "Jennifer Glenn," "Murder in the NAJCP," and "Shaka." Fauset tried to publish some of these works in the 1970s but had no success.
Additional material in the Fauset papers include his notes and research materials. In general, the notes are from courses that Fauset took or from his readings: they are not his notes from his field trips on folklore. An important document collected and saved by Fauset is a ledger dating from 1855 for the Union Building and Loan Association, Philadelphia. Following the accounting pages are manuscript texts written by Isaiah C. Wears. Accompanying this item were other seemingly nineteenth-century manuscripts.
Other items of note in the collection are four scrapbooks, which contain clippings of Fauset's columns "The People's Cause" and "I Write As I See, 1938-1943." A fifth scrapbook, seemingly compiled in 1938, concerns Marcus Garvey and other Black issues.
The remainder of the Arthur Huff Fauset papers consists of miscellaneous items and financial records. The miscellany includes some education-related materials, writings by others, and a portfolio entitled Women: A Collaboration of Artists and Writers from 1948. The financial records mostly concern Fauset's later years and his handling of property at 4948 Walnut Street in Philadelphia.
Abbreviations: AHF = Arthur Huff Fauset
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
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- Steve Stuempfle and Nancy M. Shawcross
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