Dr. Noelle A. Morrissette
Associate Professor, English
Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance
by Carla Kaplan
In Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance (Harper,2013), Carla Kaplan, noted biographer of Zora Neale Hurston, tells the story of a group of white women who actively participated in the Harlem scene during the 1920s, when the first national, self-conscious artistic movement of black culture known as the New Negro Renaissance burst to life. These women not only participated in but embraced black culture and life; they were activists, writers, and lovers. Kaplan’s group biography explores these women’s lives—which, she tells us, were “hiding in plain sight” in the archives—to complicate, fruitfully, our understanding of this defining period in modern America. What emerges from Kaplan’s work is a heightened awareness of interracialisms in art and culture that directly address the taboo of black-white sexual relations while underscoring the multiple constructions of those very categories of difference in experience, identity, and writing. Kaplan’s vivid, thoughtful work draws attention to our contemporary critical practices by interrogating commonly held ideas about segregated experiences and the invented categories of identity used to maintain them. Our understanding of the New Negro Renaissance and its writing will never be the same.