Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance
The “passing” of white women into the artistic, musical, literary, sexual and social world of Harlem during the Black Renaissance of the 1920s altered history forever. Six women in particular were labeled as either notable or infamous, depending on the writer’s viewpoint. The first is Josephine Cogdell Schuyler, who married well-known black writer Charles Schuyler. Their primary belief was that “difference” must disappear in order for racism to end. Others include Annie Nathan Meyer, the founder of Barnard College; Nancy Cunard, Charlotte Osgood Mason, educator Lillian Wood, and novelist Fannie Hurst. These white women were mentors whose support guaranteed success, but they were used and discarded after their beneficence was no longer needed. Every facet of their immersion is examined, including questions about what it means to be black, the “primitive” aspect of blackness that seemed to attract these women, the unrealistic focus on the extraordinary aspects of the Black Renaissance versus the everyday, mundane world of most African-Americans of that time, and much more. The most compelling aspect of this work is the questions about racism that its pages elicit in the reader, questions that don’t brook denial and which demand reflection. Miss Anne in Harlem should be required reading in every college curriculum; highly recommended.