Larsen, Nella, 1891-1964

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1891-04-13
Death 1964-03-30
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Nella Larsen, Harlem Renaissance writer, librarian and nurse.

She was born in Chicago in 1893 to a white Danish mother and a black West Indian father. Two years later, after her father died, her mother married a Dane. Educated in Chicago, at sixteen Larsen travelled to Denmark and remained for three years. After a year of study at Fisk University, she attented the University of Copenhagen, and later returned to the United States where she graduated from the Lincoln Hospital Training Program in New York (1915). Larsen married Elmer S. Imes, an African American physicist in 1919, and became associated with the cultural awakening in Harlem, known as the Harlem Renaissance. From 1921-1926 she worked as a children's librarian at the 135 Street Branch of the New York Public Library.

Larsen's first short story was published in 1926, and her two novels quickly followed: "Quicksand" (1928) and "Passing" (1929). The following year she became the first African American woman to win a Guggenheim award for creative writing. Her books are autobiographical in nature, dealing with identity and marginality and explore the consciousness and psychology of female character. An unsubstantiated charge of plagiarism and her divorce in 1933 ended Larsen's career as one of the Harlem Renaissance's major novelists. Her nursing career began in 1941 and she worked as a nurse in several hospitals in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Larsen died in relative obscurity in 1964.

From the description of Nella Larsen Letters, 1928. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122517298

Nella Larsen, Harlem Renaissance writer, librarian and nurse. She was born in Chicago in 1893 to a white Danish mother and a black West Indian father. Two years later, after her father died, her mother married a Dane. Educated in Chicago, at sixteen Larsen travelled to Denmark and remained for three years. After a year of study at Fisk University, she attented the University of Copenhagen, and later returned to the United States where she graduated from the Lincoln Hospital Training Program in New York (1915). Larsen married Elmer S. Imes, an African American physicist in 1919, and became associated with the cultural awakening in Harlem, known as the Harlem Renaissance. From 1921-1926 she worked as a children's librarian at the 135 Street Branch of the New York Public Library.

Larsen's first short story was published in 1926, and her two novels quickly followed: "Quicksand" (1928) and "Passing" (1929). The following year she became the first African American woman to win a Guggenheim award for creative writing. Her books are autobiographical in nature, dealing with identity and marginality and explore the consciousness and psychology of female character. An unsubstantiated charge of plagiarism and her divorce in 1933 ended Larsen's career as one of the Harlem Renaissance's major novelists. Her nursing career began in 1941 and she worked as a nurse in several hospitals in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Larsen died in relative obscurity in 1964.

From the guide to the Nella Larsen Letters, 1928, (The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.)

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Subjects:

  • Afro--American authors
  • African American authors

Occupations:

  • Nurses
  • Librarians
  • Novelists

Places:

  • United States, 00, US
  • Chicago, IL, US
  • New York, NY, US