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Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance Hardcover – September 10, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Frustrated by the lack of information about the strong-minded white women who played intriguing, often vexing roles in the Harlem Renaissance and who were known collectively as Miss Anne, Kaplan (Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, 2002) took up the challenge and through arduous research reclaimed astonishing and provocative lives. She presents six indelible portraits of taboo-breakers who were reviled as “either monstrous or insane” for their involvement in African American culture. Each biography is shaped by Kaplan’s vivid scene-setting, historical perspective, psychological sensitivity, narrative panache, and frank analysis of the virulent sexism and racism of 1920s America and the confluence in Harlem of grim social conundrums and a spectacular creative flowering. Kaplan’s audacious, contrary and tragic subjects include Texan Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, a spitfire journalist who married the controversial African American newspaper editor and writer, George Schuyler; Charlotte Osgood Mason, who established herself as a meddlesome patron of Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Alain Locke, “one of the chief architects of the Harlem Renaissance”; and scandalous steamship heiress Nancy Cunard, who, to the surprise of nearly everyone, edited the era’s “most comprehensive anthology of black life.” Kaplan’s meticulously documented and intrepid history of Miss Anne encompasses a unique vantage on the complexities of race and gender and a dramatic study in paradox. --Donna Seaman


“Professor Kaplan, a biographer of the writer Zora Neale Hurston, captivatingly illuminates and places in overdue perspective.” (New York Times)

“In this remarkable work of historical recovery . . . [Kaplan] resurrects Miss Anne as a cultural figure and explores the messy contradictions of her life . . . deeply researched.” (New York Times Book Review)

“An empathetic and skillful writer, Kaplan . . . 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. . . . Captivating.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Endlessly fascinating, Miss Anne in Harlem reveals a whole new perspective on the Harlem Renaissance, and Carla Kaplan delivers an essential and absorbing portrait of race and sex in 20th century America.” (Gilbert King, author of Devil in the Grove)

“With superb, exhaustive research and finely dramatic writing, Carla Kaplan’s brilliant Miss Anne in Harlem fills an aching void in our knowledge of the Harlem Renaissance. It also significantly deepens our understanding of American culture in the 1920s and American feminism in general.” (Arnold Rampersad, author of The Life of Langston Hughes)

“A work of meticulous and far-ranging scholarship, Miss Anne in Harlem matches its characters’ shocking and subversive lives with explosive revelations and subtle insights. . . . Kaplan’s haunting narrative forces a rethinking of race and gender.” (Megan Marshall, author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism)

“[An] utterly fascinating and deeply insightful account. . . . This fine book takes the Misses Anne seriously and goes further, to reveal the workings of interracial networks in one of the most important cultural phenomena in American history.” (Nell Irvin Painter, author of The History of White People)

“The fact that white women played a pivotal role in creating the Harlem Renaissance was a secret hiding in plain sight, but it took Carla Kaplan’s keen eye, rigorous research, and crystal clear prose to reveal it. A surprising, delightful book.” (Debby Applegate, author of The Most Famous Man in America)

“Carla Kaplan has taken on a dauntingly liminal topic and by force of scholarly rigor and narrative compassion rendered it central to our understanding of an era. Lush, original, and vigorously argued....” (Diane McWhorter, author of Carry Me Home)

“Kaplan always writes from inside her characters, and with a novelist’s sense of scope—and compassion.” (Hilton Als, New

“Kaplan’s meticulously documented and intrepid history of Miss Anne encompasses a unique vantage on the complexities of race and gender and a dramatic study in paradox.” (Booklist (starred review))

“(Kaplan’s) extensive research has given life to a critical period in black American history-and given credit to the white women who, for various reasons, helped the Harlem Renaissance flourish.” (

“[A] revelatory book. . . . Aside from its significance as cultural history, Miss Anne in Harlem is packed with amazing life stories.” (NPR's Fresh Air)

“[R]ichly researched, thoughtful new book.” (Boston Globe)

“In her clear-sighted, empathetic assessment of a half-dozen of these women, Carla Kaplan casts a fresh eye over people and relationships too often reduced to stereotypes.” (Daily Beast)

“[An] intriguing new book.” (Washington Post Book World)

“Carla Kaplan has given us and history a great gift.” (New York Journal of Books)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060882387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060882389
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More 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, and she has also taught at the University of Southern California and Yale University. Kaplan is the author of The Erotics of Talk and Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, as well as the editor of Dark Symphony and Other Works by Elizabeth Laura Adams, Every Tongue Got to Confess by Zora Neale Hurston, and Passing by Nella Larsen. A recipient of a Guggenheim and many other fellowships, 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. Du Bois Institute, among other research centers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In African-American slang, "Miss Anne" refers to a white woman. The "free play of identity" is a modern concept which suggests that individual identities can be changing and fluid rather than fixed. Individuals often try to remake or reinvent themselves in various ways and choose an understanding of themselves different from the categories into which they were born.

Miss Anne and the free play of identity are brought together and explored in Carla Kaplan's new book, "Miss Anne in Harlem: the White Women of the Harlem Renaissance". The book is a group biography of six white women who, during the 1920s and 1930s reinvented themselves to varying degrees as African-American. The women became part of the cultural movement loosely described as the Harlem Renaissance. Kaplan, the Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University, is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and the author of a biography of Zora Neale Hurston, among other works.

Although the Harlem Renaissance has been studied extensively, the Miss Annes of the period have received little attention. Kaplan's goal was first to find them, to study what they did, and to enter upon the treacherous world of determinining motivation. From about 60 women whom Kaplan initially identified as plausible candidates, she narrowed her field down to the six individuals that make the focus of the book, Others make frequent appearances throughout the work. Kaplan states that her book is informed by modern cultural studies, including "critical race theory, identity theory, whiteness studies and contemporary feminism" but she rightly says that the book is a biography and does not demand commitment to these fields by the reader.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although the women known collectively as "Miss Anne" had a few things in common -- they were white, they came from middle or upper class families, and they had an intense interest in the lives of the black people of Harlem -- they were very different individuals. Fortunately, each of the six women that Professor Carla Kaplan profiles is a biography-worthy character in her own right.

Kaplan puts the late 19th century and early 20th century divisions between the races into perspective and shows how these white women, all well-intentioned, but eventually tragic in some way, tried to cross the line. Even the most well-intentioned women, those who wanted to see the artists of the Harlem Renaissance get their deserved recognition, were patronizing in their attitudes toward blacks, and some of them were simply drama queens who loved the attention they got from flouting social conventions. Even when those they purported to help recognized their good intentions, they were also put off by the superior attitude of Miss Anne.

Most tragic was probably Josephine Cogdell, who had a career as a successful writer when she married a black writer, George Schuyler. His writing improved abruptly when he married Cogdell, though no one seemed to make the connection at the time. It was an unhappy marriage and Cogdell concentrated on educating their prodigy daughter, Philippa, who eventually became a concert pianist and then a journalist. One reason the marriage was unhappy was that George's political views took a sharp turn to the right and he became a member of the John Birch Society. When Philippa followed in her father's political footsteps, it must have been difficult for Josephine.

Miss Anne in Harlem is an enlightening read on a topic not much written about. I'd like to read more about these women and others.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By SundayAtDusk VINE VOICE on September 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book will probably seem too scholarly for some readers. There are over 150 pages of notes at the end, and Carla Kaplan throws a lot of names, facts and ideas at the reader in the first 50 pages. Stick with it, though, if you're thinking of giving it up. Or at least go read the chapters about each Miss Anne: Lillian E. Wood, Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, Annie Nathan Meyer, Charlotte Osgood Mason, Fannie Hurst and Nancy Cunard. You'll be reading the most interesting stories of six women who are probably unknown to the majority of readers. Women who were living daring and dangerous lives during the era of Jim Crow laws, which were always claimed to be needed mostly to protect white women from black men. My favorite chapter was on Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, a writer from Texas who moved to Harlem, married a black writer, and had a genius daughter named Philippa. Even though her marriage received attention from the national press, her family back in Texas apparently never knew of her marriage or her child, even though some came to visit her in New York! To learn more about her daughter Philippa, read Composition in Black and White: The Life of Philippa Schuyler.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Trudie Barreras VINE VOICE on August 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book can only be described as extraordinary in its depth and scope. Carla Kaplan has indeed undertaken an extremely challenging endeavor, trying to give both an overview of an amazing cultural phenomenon, and also to develop accurate biographies of six women from scarce, contradictory, and sometimes non-existent material. Since the uncorrected proof of the book which came to me via the Vine program regretfully lacked page references for the copious notes and illustrations, I read it not as a scholar so much as superficially, and it is in that mode I will respond.

The Harlem Renaissance that is the setting for these biographies was a time of tremendous change in terms of America's view of race relations. As Kaplan so vividly explains, the national insanity concerning miscegenation, specifically in terms of liaisons between white women and black men, had reached a fever pitch. African American soldiers returning from Europe after WWI had an entirely different perspective on their prerogatives as citizens. Although television did not exist, movies and theater were beginning to achieve new popularity, and the automobile was completely changing the mobility patterns of the population. Women were achieving the vote, and although access to many professions was still decades in the future, they were making a significant impact in the arts. Many were also becoming wealthy as a result of inheritance from husbands or parents.

However, even the "liberated women" of the `20's and `30's felt significant cultural constraints, and their efforts to participate in the major political events of the era were typically behind-the-scenes.
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