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

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  324 ratings  ·  70 reviews
One of the nation's foremost scholars of ethnic and gender studies offers a new perspective of the 1920s in this lively, groundbreaking group biography of the white women of the Harlem Renaissance

The 1920s in New York was a time of passion and freedom, in which new forms of art, including jazz and modern dance, flourished. At the heart of this cultural explosion was Harlem
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Harper
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3.86  · 
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 ·  324 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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The more I grow interested in this era of American Literature, the more I talk about it with friends and academics, the more I learn just how unaware people are about this "symbol of liberty" to African Americans in the 1920s. Read Thurman, Locke or Hughes and you learn that Harlem provided artistic respite from racial tensions and animosity faced. These writers were barely seen as humans elsewhere in their country, but in Harlem they were stars.

The Harlem Renaissance was a period when "patrons
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
'First they ignore you... then sexualize you...and then call you crazy and write you off as a social misfit...' is the overriding theme I found most revealing, or should I say telling, in the reading about defining Miss Anne. Prior to reading this book Miss Anne was either a prissy young girl, or a white woman. It's in this respect that makes this collected timepiece of narratives and researched events of women referred to as Miss Anne, overall compellingly interesting. Many of the narratives co ...more
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Well-researched and written, a fascinating account of six white women who passionately involved themselves, to varying degrees of success, in the lives of Blacks in Harlem.

* *

Heard the author speak yesterday at the Mount, Edith Wharton's home. Highly informative, passionate and engaging. Looks like a great read.
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
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
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This history and group biography of several of the strong minded but sometimes misguided white women who inserted themselves into the Harlem Renaissance is a fascinating look at the rich culture of the time, black and white. Though the 1920's is thought of as an era of freethinking flappers, views of race were rigid and and punishments for crossing the color line were harsh. These "Miss Anne" white women wanted to help bring about a paradigm shift, but they met with a lot of resistance from both ...more
Robin Friedman
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 Whit
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jungle fever in 1920's Harlem: Looking for the "Sheikh."

This book tells the story of white women in black Harlem collectively referred to as "Miss Anne," has never been told until now. White women who wrote impassioned pleas such as "A white girl's prayer" about their longings to escape the "curse" of whiteness were overlooked. The press sexualized and sensationalized their stories as sexual adventurers or lesbians. For blacks, she was unpredictable, and a "gleeful pickaninny." She is a woman of
Steve Walker
An interesting study on the social upheaval caused by early interracial social and intellectual exchange. It offers a glimpse of how parts of the American population are truly isolated and what happens when attempts are made to bridge that isolation. Carla Kaplan provides an excellent background and examples in the six women she profiles in this book.
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is a keeper. Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance by Carla Kaplan is an amazing piece of research and was difficult to stop reading. The term “Miss Ann” was brand new to me.

Most often, the women who were called "Miss Ann" thought it was a curse that they were white. One woman, Josephine Cogdell Schulyer pushed for "intermarriage as a solution to the race problem". She married a black man herself. She was able to keep her marriage secret from her parents by vis
Kelly B
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This non-fiction book is about the "Miss Anne"s of the Harlem Renaissance. "Miss Anne" was a derogative term the residents of Harlem used for the (usually wealthy, upper class) white women who became patrons to the black artists and writers in Harlem.

The Miss Annes were often a double edged sword: while their financial contributions were welcome, it came with advice and, sometimes, conditions. One of the Miss Annes required the people she helped to call her "Godmother" and tried to control every
Nov 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
An Interracial Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance - the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, a time when jazz was in the height of music. New York City. An artistic and social revolution for dance, literature, art, and music. Professor Carla Kaplan realized that there was so much research on the African American side of things during that pivotal time, yet the one story or narrative that was not being told was the part that white women played during this period. This group of women
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
One French Vanity Fair reporter wrote that he could not take his eyes off the "tom-toms" in Montmartre's jazz and the white ladies "swaying luxuriously in the long arms of the dark cowboys."

This comment and so many more make this book a joy to read. The white Women of the Harlem Renaissance were strong, but fragile, humble with a huge ego, every juxtaposition one can think of.

Nancy Cunard will always be my hero...always.

Thank you Ms. Kaplan for your selfless research & delightful writing st
Jul 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book about a little known, little discussed aspect of the Harlem Renaissance. Excellent and thorough research. Starts off a little slow, and can be a tedious read...but each story gets better and better. Amazing how these women consistently disavowed Whiteness and unconsciously used their privilege to co-opt Blackness for their own salvation. The epilogue nails it!
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
An interesting slice of history, made less interesting by the author's repetitive way of presenting it.
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 ar ...more
Jennifer Frasier
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
There is definitely some ironic privilege at work in a book that focuses on the white people involved in the achievements of black people, but I do feel this book offers some interesting insight into Harlem Renaissance writers. Personally I was very interested in the many interesting tidbits about Zora Neale Hurston. Also, I think an examination of how Harlem Renaissance writing was funded can give us insight into how much of that writing was written sincerely versus to please certain audiences. ...more
Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While a bit slow and dry at times, I get the sense that there really wasn't any other fully fleshed narrative of these white women and their involvement in the Harlem Renaissance out there. The author clearly spent a great deal of time researching her subjects and the historical context of their actions and immersion in a culture not their own. Really gave me historical perspective on what today we refer to as appropriation. It was that and more. Fascinating read.
L.M. Elm
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: at-the-house
Caplan highlights the white women that dared associate with the Harlem Renaissance. This book reminds me how far we’ve come and how much farther we need to go.
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very good book. The format was easy to read and understand. The topic was very interesting. And the author gave a well rounded and informative view into each of these women.
May 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As with women now if you leave behind your ascribed sexual sphere you are seen as crazy. Lesbians are seen as crazy because they have rejected men sexually. Women that don't have children or marry are seen as peculiar. Nymphomaniacs are described as women who find no joy in sexual activity and are therefore crazy, not that a woman should be allowed to have too much pleasure herself, enough to please her male partner. The dictionary on the other hand describes nymphomania as having excessive sexu ...more
Chris Craddock
Nov 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Harlem Nocturne

Earle Hagen (July 9, 1919 – May 26, 2008) went on the road and played in big bands led by Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Ray Noble when he was only 16. 4 years later, while on the road with Noble, he wrote "Harlem Nocturne," which was inspired by Duke Ellington and Duke's alto saxophonist, Johnny Hodges. Though Hagen was totally White, I think he really captured that Black mood and sound in "Harlem Nocturne." How White was he? Well, he was so White that he went on to write TV th
Sep 07, 2013 rated it liked it
(ARC received by to follow)
An intelligent,quirky,sometimes bizarre and sometimes haunting series of mini-biographies of some unusual Miss Annes(white women who were attracted to and both influenced and were impacted by the black culture of the Harlem Renaissance)...Kaplan's research is impressive,meticulous and dedicated.She appears to be one of the first to discover that that the author of a popular "black" novel of the time, was actually a white woman, who was deeply sympathe
Maureen M
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews, race, history
I wrote this review for the newspaper:

They were white, well-meaning and intent on making their mark in the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem called them all “Miss Anne,” and did not know what to make of them. The white press called them immoral or insane.
In “Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance,” Carla Kaplan rounds out the picture of a half-dozen strong-willed women reduced to a common identity.
Their real stories are far more provocative: Nancy Cunard, the British shipping hei
Angie Reisetter
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Wow. No wonder we still make a mess of things when we talk about race (and no wonder we try to avoid it at all costs). It's been messy for a long time, and the 1920s and 1930s was an early period in which we started developing the language of race in a prominent movement of artists, not just activists. This book is a description of white women's roles in the Harlem Renaissance, but really it's six mini-biographies. The six women profiled here are well-meaning, white, generally well-to-do, and in ...more
Aug 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received the uncorrected proof via First Reads. What an interesting topic! I never thought much about Harlem until I saw it in the Giveaways section. The book focuses primarily on six women, three in greater detail and three to a lesser extent. Photographs are included. For me, Lillian E. Wood was the woman I connected with the greatest, yet Josephine Cogdell Schuyler was the most interesting. I liked all the names thrown out there, as many were names I recognized, tying other tidbits of histo ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I will admit up front that before reading this book I knew very little about black history between Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights movement in the 60s with Martin Luther King. There are many elements of more contemporary American history that I know very little about. When I did my internship and lived in Manhattan, I lived in the Upper West Side, just a few streets away from Harlem, and I went there a few times. But all in all, I was relatively clueless about what the H ...more
Cathy Gulkin
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating history of the most noteworthy white women who became involved with the life and artists of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's. Some took on African American artists as their financial patrons, some as lovers and/or husbands, and some took on blackness as their identity--writing and publishing as if they were actually black.

If I had read this book a year ago, I still would have found it fascinating, but in the light of the Rachel Dolezal scandal it reads as a cautionary
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Fascinating look at numerous women who inserted themselves in the Harlem Renaissance, and society's response to them. An overriding theme is the appropriation of black culture by rich whites looking for an escape from their lives. Some women certainly did identify and empathize with their new black friends and lovers, but there is also this underlying theme of simplifying/patronizing the culture. Some like Josephine Codgell Schuyler (who lived with her husband out of the public eye) are highly s ...more
Don O'goodreader
What an extraordinary book! A history of the Harlem Renaissance (1920s and 30s) told through the biographies of courageous white women who supported black civil rights during a time of segregation and lynchings. If you have any interest in the civil rights history of women or African Americans Miss Anne in Harlem by Carla Kaplan is the book for you.

"Miss Anne" is Harlem slang for any white woman.

The book is wrought with the tension between two ideas ... essentialism: race is in the blood and imm
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly enjoyed and learned a bit about the Harlem Renaissance. I found the book interesting in part because of its unusual focus on the white women drawn to Harlem and black people, culture, and issues. As the author acknowledges, these women fall into a category of dismissal and disparagement (and this continued into the Sixties if not also to today). The author not only recognizes but explores the complicated motives of the women she writes about. There were also complicated motives on the ...more
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