Carla Kaplan

Biography: About Carla Kaplan

Carla Kaplan
Carla Kaplan. Photo by Robin Hultgren. Download hi-res

Carla Kaplan is the Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University, where, as the Founding Director of the university's Humanities Center, she created a conversational hub dedicated to diversity. She has held positions at Yale University, the University of Southern California, and the University of Illinois and also teaches writing through arts councils and writers' centers.

Kaplan's previous books include Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, the first published collection of a major African American woman's letters. This melding of biography, cultural history, and correspondence drew on nearly fifty archives and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award, a New York Times Notable Book, a New York magazine "top five" book of the season, a Book-of-the-Month Club pick, and the subject of feature articles in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.

She is also the author of The Erotics of Talk: Women's Writing and Feminist Paradigms and the editor of numerous works of African American literature, including Hurston's long-lost book of folklore, Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-Tales From the Gulf States; Nella Larsen's Harlem Renaissance novels Passing and Quicksand, and a lost work of the black experience, Dark Symphony, by Elizabeth Laura Adams, as well as occasional pieces for such publications as The Los Angeles Times and The Nation. She lectures widely on literature and culture.

Miss Anne in Harlem draws on Kaplan's thirty years as a white scholar in Black Studies to explore cultural crossovers. Her next book, a biography of Jessica Mitford, the rebellious daughter of eccentric British peers—a woman with a wicked sense of humor who gave up wealth and privilege to become an American activist and, eventually, one of the most important American muckrakers of the twentieth century—will also be published by HarperCollins.

Kaplan has received such academic honors as the Robert D. Klein Award, the Mary L. Cornille Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Wellesley College, the Fannie Hurst Professorship at Washington University, and others, as well as fellowships from The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Public Library's Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Culture, the NEH, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the National Humanities Center, the Harry Ransom Center, the Beinecke Library, and elsewhere. In May 2014, on the basis of Miss Anne in Harlem, Carla was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Historians.

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Kaplan grew up in Evanston, Illinois, spending summers in Cape Cod and going to camp at Circle Pines Center, one of the nation's first interracial cooperatives; she lives in Boston and Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Praise for Miss Anne in Harlem

"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)

"Kaplan always writes from inside her characters, and with a novelist's sense of scope—and compassion."

Hilton Als for The New Yorker

"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 for BookList

"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. Miss Anne in Harlem is a surprising, delightful book, that will soon be essential reading for anyone interested in the Harlem Renaissance and the brave, bold women of the Jazz Age."

Debby Applegate, author of The Most Famous Man in America

"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, Carla Kaplan's Miss Anne in Harlem [assembles] an unforgettable cast of race-rebels, 'traitors to whiteness,' who gave their full resources—talent, compassion, money, ingenuity—to the cause of black cultural liberation a half-century before America discovered that 'black is beautiful.' A story of Harlem Renaissance insiders who would always be outsiders, 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

"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, Miss Anne in Harlem does justice to the difficult richness not only of these exceptional women's lives but of life itself."

Diane McWhorter, author of Carry Me Home

"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

"In this utterly fascinating and deeply insightful account, Carla Kaplan reveals the disparate women who together became "Miss Anne" in the Harlem Renaissance. From the reticent Annie Nathan Meyer through the manipulative Charlotte Osgood Mason to the flamboyant Nancy Cunard, they could see themselves as better Negroes than actual black people and despise other whites in black milieu. Yet they challenged the meanings of race and gender in ways that still deserve attention. 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
Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance, by Carla Kaplan

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