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Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissanceby Carla Kaplan
Synopses & Reviews
Winner, Julia Ward Howe Prize
New York Times Notable Book
Publishers Weekly, "Ten Best" Books of 2013
NPR, "Best of 2013"
Los Angeles Times bestseller
"Must Read" Book, Massachusetts Book Awards
New York City in the Jazz Age was host to a pulsating artistic and social revolution. Uptown, an unprecedented explosion in black music, literature, dance, and art sparked the Harlem Renaissance. While the history of this African-American awakening has been widely explored, one chapter remains untold: the story of a group of women collectively dubbed "Miss Anne."
Sexualized and sensationalized in the mainstream press—portrayed as monstrous or insane—Miss Anne was sometimes derided within her chosen community of Harlem as well. While it was socially acceptable for white men to head uptown for "exotic" dancers and "hot" jazz, white women who were enthralled by life on West 125th Street took chances. Miss Anne in Harlem introduces these women—many from New York's wealthiest social echelons—who became patrons of, and romantic participants in, the Harlem Renaissance. They include Barnard College founder Annie Nathan Meyer, Texas heiress Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, British activist Nancy Cunard, philanthropist Charlotte Osgood Mason, educator Lillian E. Wood, and novelist Fannie Hurst—all women of accomplishment and renown in their day. Yet their contributions as hostesses, editors, activists, patrons, writers, friends, and lovers often went unacknowledged and have been lost to history until now.
In a vibrant blend of social history and biography, award-winning writer Carla Kaplan offers a joint portrait of six iconoclastic women who risked ostracism to follow their inclinations—and raised hot-button issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality in the bargain. Returning Miss Anne to her rightful place in the interracial history of the Harlem Renaissance, Kaplan's formidable work remaps the landscape of the 1920s, alters our perception of this historical moment, and brings Miss Anne to vivid life.
"Northeastern University literature and gender studies scholar Kaplan (Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters) shares the previously untold story of a group of notable white women who embraced black culture — and life — in Harlem in the 1920s and '30s. Collectively known as 'Miss Anne,' these women served as hostesses, patrons, activists, comrades, lovers, writers, and editors at a time when the Ku Klux Klan was at its height, and when a white woman who became intimate with a 'Negro' faced almost certain ostracism. A captivating group biography and social history, the book focuses on six women: Lillian Wood (Let My People Go), a teacher at a small black college; Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, a Texan heiress who married black journalist George Schuyler and became a writer herself, yet had to keep her interracial marriage hidden from her family; Barnard college founder Annie Nathan Meyer; influential patron Charlotte Osgood Mason; novelist Fannie Hurst; and English heiress Nancy Cunard. An empathetic and skillful writer, Kaplan has produced a valuable addition to the history of the period. As she shows, Miss Anne defied categorization, transcending her race, class, and gender, and introducing many of the ideas we hold today about inclusiveness and self-reinvention. 54 b&w photos and two 8-page color inserts. Agent: Brettne Bloom, Kneerim & Williams. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Celebrated scholar Carla Kaplans cultural biography, Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance, focuses on white women, collectively called “Miss Anne,” who became Harlem Renaissance insiders.
The 1920s in New York City was a time of freedom, experimentation, and passion—with Harlem at the epicenter. White men could go uptown to see jazz and modern dance, but women who embraced black culture too enthusiastically could be ostracized.
Miss Anne in Harlem focuses on six of the unconventional, free-thinking women, some from Manhattan high society, many Jewish, who crossed race lines and defied social conventions to become a part of the culture and heartbeat of Harlem.
Ethnic and gender studies professor Carla Kaplan brings the interracial history of the Harlem Renaissance to life with vivid prose, extensive research, and period photographs.
About the Author
Carla Kaplan is an award-winning professor and writer who holds the Stanton W. and Elisabeth K. Davis Distinguished Professorship in American Literature at Northeastern University. She is the author of The Erotics of Talk and Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters. A recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, Kaplan has been a fellow in residence at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the W. E. B. DuBois Institute and is a fellow of the Society of American Historians.
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