Fauset, Crystal Bird, 1893-1965

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Crystal Bird Fauset (June 27, 1893 – March 27, 1965) was a civil rights activist, social worker, race relations specialist, and the first female African American state legislator elected in the United States, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Born in Maryland and raised in Boston, Fauset started her professional career as a public school teacher in Boston. She would then go onto work for the Young Women's Christian Association, and then with the American Friends Service Committee. In 1935, she became assistant to the director of Philadelphia's Works Progress Administration and also began politically organizing for the Democratic National Committee. In 1938, Fauset was elected to the Pennsylvania state legislature. She served for a year as a state representative in which she introduced nine bills and three amendments on issues ranging from affordable housing projects to fair employment legislation.

During the Roosevelt administration, Fauset was appointed to the Office of Civilian Defense on October 20, 1941, and worked as a race relations advisor. In 1944, she broke away from the Democratic Party and publicly supported the Republican presidential candidate. In her later years, Fauset turned to global issues and helped found the United Nations Council of Philadelphia, later known as the World Affairs Council.

Crystal Bird Fauset was born in Princess Anne, Maryland to parents Benjamin Oliver Bird and Portia E. Bird (née Lovett). She was one of nine children. Her father was the first principal of Princess Anne Academy, a school for black students. The Academy was the predecessor to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Portia Bird would become the principal after her husband's death in 1897, and would remain in the position till her death in 1900. Crystal Dreda Bird was then raised by her maternal aunt, Lucy Groves in Boston, who encouraged her to become an educator. Bird attended integrated public schools and, in 1914, graduated from Boston Normal School. She received a B.S. degree in education from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1931, the same year she married educator, civil rights activist, and anthropologist Arthur Fauset who was the half-brother of Jessie Redmon Fauset, a Harlem Renaissance writer. They would eventually separate and finalize divorce in 1944.

After graduating from Boston Normal School, Fauset was a public school teacher from 1914 to 1918 before taking a position as a field secretary for the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) where she worked on programs aimed at black youth and working girls throughout the United States. In this position, she also began to speak out about the concerns of black community and race relations in general. She later became actively involved in several different organizations geared towards the advancement for African Americans rights.

In 1955, Fauset was awarded a second Meritorious Service Medal from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. During her later years, Fauset lived in New York City. She died in her sleep while visiting Philadelphia on March 27, 1965.

Some of Fauset's surviving papers and photos are housed in an archive collection at Howard University. Her influential accomplishments for African American people earned her a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Marker. It was unveiled in 1991 and can be found outside her old home on 5402 Vine Street in Philadelphia. The memorial reads "The first Black woman elected to a state legislature in the U.S., Fauset, who lived here, won her seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1938. She later served as a Civil Defense race relations advisor under Franklin D. Roosevelt."

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Cumming, Adelaide Fish Hawley, 1905-. Papers, 1922-1967 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Fauset, Crystal Dreda Bird, 1893-1965. Crystal Bird Fauset papers, 1946-1965. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
referencedIn Lincoln University (Pa.). Office of the President. Horace Mann Bond records, 1853-1960 (bulk 1945-1957). Lincoln University, Langston Hughes Memorial Library, Langston Hughes Memorial Library
creatorOf Democratic National Committee (U.S.). Correspondence with Marian Anderson, 1940-1982. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Horace Mann Bond Papers, 1830-1979, 1926-1972 Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries
referencedIn Papers, 1922-1967 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Crystal Bird Fauset Papers, Bulk, 1946-1950, 1944-1959 Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
creatorOf Klaiss, Mathilda M. Mathilda M. Klaiss papers, 1929-1935. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bond, Horace Mann, 1904-1972 person
associatedWith Cumming, Adelaide Hawley, 1905-1998 person
associatedWith Democratic National Committee (U.S.). corporateBody
associatedWith Gandhi, Indira, 1917-1984. person
associatedWith Klaiss, Mathilda M. person
correspondedWith Lincoln University (Pa.). Office of the President. corporateBody
associatedWith Nehru, Jawaharlal, 1889-1964. person
associatedWith United Nations Council of Philadelphia. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Republic of India 00 IN
Maryland MD US
New York City NY US
Boston MA US
Islamic Republic of Pakistan 00 PK
Philadelphia PA US
Philadelphia PA US
Subject
Affordable Housing
Fair Employment
Civil rights
Race relations--20th century
Occupation
Social Worker
State Representative
African American state legislators
Politician
Activity

Person

Birth 1893-06-27

Death 1965-03-27

Female

African Americans,

Americans

English

Information

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SNAC ID: 85820563