20 Female Harlem Renaissance Writers You Should Know

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2015. We’ve selected it as one of the posts we’re republishing for our 10th anniversary celebrations in May 2017.

I’ll keep this brief: we know too little about the women of the Harlem Renaissance. The more I look into these poets, writers, dramatists, essayists, critics, social critics, young adult writers, and editors, the more astounded I am at their range and literary output. These women writers run the gamut of political perspectives, editorial and aesthetic approaches, and backgrounds and nationalities. Yet they all converged to create one of the richest periods in American literary history. Here’s to learning more, and please, if I’ve made any mistakes or omissions, include your notes in the comments.

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Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882 – 1961)

Fauset’s influence within the Harlem Renaissance cannot be overstated. As the literary editor of The Crisis (or Crisis) — the official magazine of the NAACP, founded by W. E. B. Du Bois — she led the development of many of its key ideas, and also the careers of its writers, including Langston Hughes and Nella Larsen. Fauset was the first black woman accepted to Phi Beta Kappa, and the first black woman graduate from Cornell. Her novels, including There is Confusion — considered the first Harlem novel — are said to rank with the work of Nella Larsen and Zora Neale Hurston, according to The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance.