Joseph Raty

Jessie Redmon Fauset (Fauset-1)


Jessie Redmon Fauset was born in Camden, New Jersey on April 27, 1882. Her parents were Redmon Fauset and Annie Seamon Fauset. After Annie Seamon Fauset died while Jessie was young, Redmon married Bella Huff and their family moved to Philadelphia. There, Jessie Fauset graduated from Philadelphia's High School for Girls as the only African American in 1900. She applied to Bryn Mawr College but instead of accepting her they instead helped her receive financial aid to attend Cornell University. She graduated from Cornell in 1905 and searched for a teaching position but was denied because of her race and sex. She finally found a job in Washington DC where she moved to and lived for fourteen years.

In 1919, W.E.B DuBois asked Jessie to move to New York and take a job as literary editor of the Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP. During her job as editor of the Crisis she contributed her own writings to the newspaper. During her career as a writer she wrote four novels, the two most famous are There is Confusion and Plum Bun. Both of these were influential pieces of work that showed those that read them what life as an african american was really like. She did not receive very much recognition for her work during her lifetime but is now remembered for her success as a writer. She died on April 30, 1961 due to hypertensive heart disease.

Dead Fires

If this is peace, this dead and leaden thing,
Then better far the hateful fret, the sting.
Better the wound forever seeking balm
Than this gray calm!

Is this pain's surcease? Better far the ache,
The long-drawn dreary day, the night's white wake,
Better the choking sigh, the sobbing breath
Than passion's death!

Poetry Analysis

I believe that Dead Fires is talking about how after slavery was abolished, African Americans were still treated terribly because of segregation. It's talking about how Jessie Redmon Fauset and many others felt that it would be better if they were still fighting to be free from whites than to be in this "gray calm" (4) where they are segregated from whites and are unable to do much about it. This poem sounds like it is coming from someone who is angry and ready to do something about what is happening. Fauset uses words such as "sting" (2), "choking" (7), "sobbing" (7), and "death" (8) to help the reader understand what she is feeling. These words create in our minds an image of pain and suffering and a need for change.

Fauset talks about the death of passion in Dead Fires. She says that life has become a gray calm, a "dead and leaden thing" (1). She says that if that is what peace is then it would be better far if they were back where they were before this superficial peace. Fauset uses enjambment in lines four and eight to make the statements in those lines stand out to the reader. The two main points in this poem that life for them has become a gray calm and that passion has died are found in these lines.

Works Cited

"Jessie Redmon Fauset." The Pennsylvania Center for the Book. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. <>.

"Jessie Redmon Fauset-1." Afropoets. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. <>.

"PAL: Jessie Redmon Fauset(1884-1961)." California State University Stanislaus | Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2012. <>.