Reviews for Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance

by Carla Kaplan

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*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.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Kaplan (literature, Northeastern Univ.) offers up a complex examination of the many white women who traveled uptown for a variety of reasons during the Harlem Renaissance. In a very well-researched and nicely illustrated book, the author dissects what she calls the "erotics of race," looking at not just the politics of race and the evolving cultural creation of black identity/white identity, but also the ways in which both gender and class intersected with race. Two preliminary chapters provide the historical context of the Harlem Renaissance and US society itself, with a special emphasis on changing gender roles for women during the 1920s. Kaplan then focuses on six white women with various motivations for risking the public and pejorative designation of "Miss Anne." They are the educator Lillian E. Wood; wealthy Texan Josephine Cogdell Schuyler; Barnard College founder Annie Nathan Meyer; philanthropist Charlotte Osgood Mason; author Fannie Hurst; and British activist Nancy Cunard. Each in her own way sought to break down racial barriers. Derided by many whites and viewed with suspicion by some blacks, these six women were often frustrated, but their stories illuminate the enduring power of race in the 20th-century US. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. K. B. Nutter Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College

Publishers Weekly
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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 Frannie 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.