|Alfred A. Knopf
|fiction, New York City
Set during the Harlem Renaissance in the United States in the 1920s, the book and its title have been controversial since its publication. “Nigger heaven” was a term used in the 19th century to refer to the church balconies, which were segregated for African Americans, as the white members of the congregation sat below.
The novel is a portrayal of life in the “great black walled city” of Harlem, part of New York City. It describes the interactions of African American intellectuals, political activists, bacchanalian workers, and other Harlem characters. The plot concerns two people, a quiet librarian and an aspiring writer, who try to keep their love alive as racism denies them opportunities.
Van Vechten’s friend and poet, Langston Hughes would go on to write poems to replace the songs used in the original manuscript. These poems are included in this text version and are identified at the book’s conclusion. [Suggest a different description.]
|the book and its title have been controversial since its publication
Author Bio for Van Vechten, Carl
Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) was an American photographer and author. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he developed interests in music, writing and theatre which he found hard to satisfy in his home town so he enrolled in the University of Chicago to further his education. After university, he moved to New York where he was hired as a music critic for the New York Times. At this time he began to write and he published several collections of his essays. He published his first novel, "Peter Whiffle: His Life and Works" in 1922. He became very interested in the lives of black artists and writers. He was a frequent visitor to Harlem and used these experiences to write "Nigger Heaven" which he published in 1926. In the 1930s a friend introduced him to 35mm camera photography and he began to take photos which led to a career as a photographic portraitist. His connections with the literati of New York led him to take photographs of many luminaries of the time including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, and Gertrude Stein. He continued to write and take photographs up until his death in 1964. Much of his original photographic work now resides at the Library of Congress. (Library of Congress)
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