Image from Temple University, Urban Archives, Philadelphia, Pa.
African American, Folklore, Literature
Arthur Huff Fauset
Arthur Huff Fauset was born in New Jersey in 1899. His father, Redmon Fauset, was an African American minister. His mother, Bella Huff, was Jewish. Fauset grew up in Philadelphia and earned his AB (1921), an MA (1923) and his PhD (1942) in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Alain Locke, the first African American Rhodes Scholar and philosophical architect of the Harlem Renaissance, mentored Fauset and encouraged him to write. Fauset taught for several years in the Philadelphia public school system and, for 20 years, was principal of the John Singerly School (later renamed Douglass-Singerly School), until 1946.
Dr. Fauset’s research centered the voices and stories of Black people. He completed fieldwork in Nova Scotia during the summer of 1923 for a project sponsored by Elsie Clews Parsons, who also served as a mentor. In Nova Scotia, he collected stories told by people of the African diaspora. Before this, few of the traditional stories told by African Americans were part of the Black Nova Scotia repertoire, and stories of Nova Scotia Blacks were not known to African Americans. From this fieldwork, he published an article, “Folklore from the Half-Breeds in Nova Scotia,” in the Journal of American Folklore (1925), and a book, Folklore of Nova Scotia (1931), part of Memoirs of the American Folklore Society series. In his book, he theorized that over time African American folklore had both contributed to and incorporated aspects of mainstream culture.
Fauset also collected folklore in Philadelphia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, British Islands of the Lesser Antilles, and the West Indies. He combined his skills as a folklorist, journalist, and community organizer to campaign for social justice, establishing himself as a leader in the struggle for civil rights from the Harlem Renaissance through the Civil Rights Movement era.
He published his groundbreaking dissertation, Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North in 1944. For this project, Fauset conducted interviews and observed church services and other activities in the Black faith communities of Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City. He surmised that the Black church provided a place where African Americans could explore business, politics, social reform, and social expression absent the constraints they were burdened with in daily life. The work also chronicled the origins of significant religious groups such as the Nation of Islam.
He was a fellow in the American Anthropological Association and member of the American Folklore Society. His relevant scholarship for folklore includes numerous articles and these books:
Folklore of Nova Scotia (1931)
Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North (1944)