Arthur Fauset

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Arthur Huff Fauset (January 20, 1899 – September 2, 1983)[1] was an American civil rights activist, anthropologist, folklorist, and educator. Born in Flemington, New Jersey, he grew up in Philadelphia, where he attended Central High School

Family background[edit]

Fauset was born in 1899 as the middle of three children in an interracial family in Flemington, New Jersey.[2] His father Redmon Fauset was African American and likely of mixed race. He was a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and his white wife Bella was born into a Jewish family. Bringing three children from her first marriage, she had converted to Christianity to marry Fauset. Redmon Fauset had seven children from his first marriage, born before his wife Annie (née Seamon) died.

As a person of known mixed race, Arthur Fauset never identified fully with either of his parents' ethnic groups as a child or adult. According to the hypodescent practices of US society, he and his siblings were considered Negro (or Black). They were people of color. Judging by photographs of his half-sister Jessie Redmon Faust, from his father's first family, both Redmon and his first wife Annie were also mixed race. Jessie was light-skinned, with features showing some European ancestry. She wrote novels that dealt with issues of color in the black community.

Both Redmon and Bella Fauset were dedicated to the importance of education; he believed that writing was an essential discipline. Bella was also a devout integrationist. She encouraged the children in their schooling after Redmon died when Arthur was four years old. In his adult life, in contrast to his father, Fauset broke away from religion and identified as a "free thinker."


Fauset attended Central High School, a top academic high school for boys in Philadelphia. He studied further at the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy for Men, where he received his teaching credentials, and started his first teaching position in 1918.[3] In the mid-1920s, he took the principal's merit exams, scoring so highly that he qualified for promotion.[3]

He was selected as head of the John Singerly School, serving for 20 years until 1946.[3] During this period Fauset also began studying and practicing anthropology. He was mentored by writer Alain Locke, who also became a friend and emphasized an academic approach to guide his activism. Fauset earned a B.A. in 1921, and an M.A. in 1924 from the University of Pennsylvania. After teaching for years and pursuing advanced studies, he earned a Ph.D. in 1942, also from Penn.[3]

Fauset pursued education in order to feed and develop his intellect. He was discouraged because of his race from ambitions to teach at the university level. People of color had fewer opportunities in academia, but some men were completing advanced degrees and obtaining some college positions. Fauset taught and was principal at an elementary school for 20 years.

Published works[edit]

  • For Freedom. Franklin Pub. and Supply Co., 1927.
  • Folklore from Nova Scotia, Memoirs of the American Folklore Society, Vol. 24, 1931. Reprint: Corinthian Press, 1988.
  • Black Gods of the Metropolis; Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1944. Reprint 1971. Reprinted 2001 (with an introduction by John Szwed and a foreword by Barbara Dianne Savage).
  • Sojourner Truth; God's Faithful Pilgrim. Russell & Russell, 1971.
  • with Nellie Rathbone Bright: America: Red, White, Black, Yellow. Franklin Pub. and supply Co., 1969.


Fauset was an active figure in the Harlem Renaissance. His older half-sister, Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882–1961), was better known, having been Literary Editor of The Crisis, and a poet, essayist and published novelist in the 1920s and 1930s.[4]

In 1926, Fauset's essay "Symphonesque" won first prize in a contest run by Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life. He also published it in the magazine Fire!, and in 1926 it won an O. Henry Memorial Award.[5]

In the 1920s Fauset was part of a Philadelphia literary group called the Black Opals, typical of African-American groups springing up in several major East Coast cities, and inspired by activities in Harlem. In 1927 they founded a literary magazine called Black Opals, which he co-edited with Nellie Rathbone Bright.[6] She also published poetry in the magazine, as did Mae V. Cowdery; both their pieces were praised by Countee Cullen, the new literary editor of Opportunity.[7] Bright was a teacher in the Philadelphia schools.[8] Another member of the intellectual group and artistic director of the magazine was Allan Randall Freelon, a painter.[9] They published the magazine for one year.

Fauset became acquainted with Frank G. Speck, who introduced him to the newly developing academic field of anthropology. Fauset went to Nova Scotia in the summer of 1923 to collect folklore. He continued to study and work in the field. In 1925 he interviewed Cudjo Lewis in Mobile, Alabama, the last survivor of more than 100 African slaves brought illegally in 1860 to the US by the American slave ship Clotilde. They were trafficked 52 years after the US banned the Atlantic trade. Fauset published two of Lewis' traditional stories, as well as his account of hunting in Africa, in a 1927 issue of the Journal of American Folklore.[10]

Fauset concentrated on his work in anthropology, belonging to the Philadelphia Anthropology Society, the American Anthropological Association, and the American Folklore Society. The latter society published his Nova Scotian findings in their Memoirs in 1931. Elsie Clews Parsons, a wealthy white woman, supported Fauset as a patron throughout his career in anthropology. With her support, he published his Ph.D. dissertation on Negro cults of Philadelphia, New York and Chicago, as Black Gods of the Metropolis (1944).

In 1932-33 Fauset served as vice-president of the Philadelphia teachers' union and participated in its reorganization. He also joined the National Negro Congress.


  • Carole H. Carpenter, "Arthur Huff Fauset, Campaigner for Social Justice: A Symphony of Diversity." In: African-American Pioneers in Anthropology, Ira E. Harrison and Faye V. Harrison (editors), Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1999, p 213-242.
  • Edward E. Curtis and Danielle Brune Sigler, eds., The New Black Gods: Arthur Huff Fauset and the Study of African American Religions, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Salzman, Jack; David L. Smith; Cornel West (1996). Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Macmillan Library Reference. p. 937. ISBN 978-0-02-897345-6. 
  2. ^ Arthur Huff Fauset Archived October 18, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Minnesota State University, Mankato. Accessed March 9, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d "Fauset, Arthur Huff(1899–1983) - Anthropologist, educator, Prepares for Career, Chronology".
  4. ^ Wintz, Cary D., and Paul Finkelman, ed. "Arthur Fauset", Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Vol. 1, (2004), p. 362.
  5. ^ Sandra L. West Aberjhani , Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance], Infobase Publishing, 2003, p. 263
  6. ^ Elizabeth McHenry, Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies, Duke University Press, 2002, pp. 292-294
  7. ^ Wintz, Cary D., and Paul Finkelman, ed. "Black Opals", Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, Vol. 1, (2004), p. 133.
  8. ^ Elizabeth McHenry, Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies, Duke University Press, 2002, pp. 292-294
  9. ^ Aberjhani (2003), Encyclopedia, p. 119
  10. ^ Fauset, Arthur Huff (July and September 1927). "Negro Folk Tales from the South (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana)". Journal of American Folklore. 40: 213–303.  Check date values in: |date= (help)