Throughout his life, Jean Toomer insisted that he wanted to be thought of as “simply an American.” He did embrace a black identity early in life. He was categorized as a “Negro” while registering in the drafts. Later in life, Toomer would not admit African-American heritage. He married a white woman and lived as a white man. Some scholars have even characterized him as “running away from his identity.”
Why do you think Toomer would want to be known as “simply an American”?
Jean Toomer (1894 – 1967)
Cane (1923) was an inspiration for many Harlem Renaissance writers. It is his most well-known work and is considered a multi-genre masterpiece of African-American life. The novel is organized into three sections.
The first sections is stories and poems related to rural black life in the south.
The second section explores urban African-American life.
The third section is one long autobiographical short story/play of a light-skinned black man teaching in the south.
The texts we read for today are from the first section.