When Washington Was in Vogue by Edward Christopher Williams
A Love Story

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Synopsis

A literary event, this love story was written and set in the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance and is being published in book form for the very first time.

In the tradition of Dorothy West's The Wedding and Nella Larsen's Passing, When Washington Was in Vogue casts a loving but critical eye on Black high society of 1920s Washington, D.C. A novel told in letters, this sly, humorous story was first published anonymously in the Black journal The Messenger from 1925 to 1926. This is the first time When Washington Was in Vogue is being published as a book.

In When Washington Was in Vogue, protagonist Davy Carr has just moved to Washington, D.C., and is a member of its Black bourgeoisie. In his letters to his friend Bob in Harlem, Davy recounts his growing romance with Caroline, a beautiful, sharp-witted flapper who tries any number of ways to get Davy's attention. When Washington Was in Vogue details Caroline's earnest but coquettish efforts to woo Davy; it also chronicles Davy's wavering stoicism as he struggles to admit he's attracted to -- and moved by -- this much younger, darker-skinned woman. Along the way, Davy writes his impressions of race, politics, social mores, and the state of Black America.

At its heart, however, When Washington Was in Vogue is an old-fashioned love story. A look into African-American aristocracy in the early part of the twentieth century, this Victorianesque novel about modern romance is filled with the drama and style of one of the most hopeful cultural moments in African-American history. Together with Professor Adam McKible's introduction and Professor Emily Bernard's commentary, this undiscovered story offers a fascinating and memorable reading experience.

 

About Edward Christopher Williams

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Edward Christopher Williams was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1871. He was schooled at Western Reserve University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and valedictorian, and at the New York State Library School. Williams is documented as the first Black American to graduate from a library school. He was a notable scholar, a brilliant teacher, and a pivotal developer of education for librarians. He was married to Ethel Chesnutt, the daughter of Charles W. Chesnutt, author of the seminal novel The House Behind the Cedars. Williams died of a sudden illness in Washington, D.C., in 1929 at the age of fifty-eight.
 
Published January 6, 2004 by Amistad. 285 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for When Washington Was in Vogue

Kirkus Reviews

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The fact that Caroline is dark-skinned while Davy is light may throw in a dramatic frisson for historians and Black Studies scholars, but for most of us this will have little engaging power or lift.

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Publishers Weekly

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Williams provides a glimpse into a parallel universe of privilege—in which slight variations in skin tone said everything about status, and stuffiness was de rigueur (Caroline, Davy muses, "makes not the slightest outward show of culture in her ordinary social relations, [but] she has...

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