When Nella Larsen’s story “Sanctuary” appeared in the Forum in 1930, readers noted its similarity to “Mrs. Adis,” a tale by the popular British writer Sheila Kaye-Smith. Scholars concur that “Sanctuary” turns a story about British class-consciousness into a story of African American race loyalty. This essay suggests that the intertextuality of Larsen’s “Sanctuary” extends beyond “Mrs. Adis” to a neglected 1903 novella by Edith Wharton, also titled Sanctuary, and that in writing her last story Larsen “blackens up”—imitating, mocking, and distortedly mirroring both sources. Larsen’s “Sanctuary” bitterly critiques the triumph of culture, education, and moral agency in Wharton’s tale, while reworking “Mrs. Adis” to expose group solidarity as a poor substitute for autonomy, segregation in another guise. Larsen’s “Sanctuary” reveals the false promises held out to African Americans by a series of values that were much recommended to them: literacy, filial devotion, Christian charity, and group allegiance.

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