English II CP
April 2, 2012
Jean Toomer was born as Nathan Eugene Pinchback Toomer on December 26, 1884 in Washington, D.C. His father was a wealthy farmer, who was originally born into slavery in Georgia. Nina Pinchback was also of mixed descent. Jean's father abandoned his family when he son was an infant, so he and his mother lived with her parents. As a child in Washington, Toomer attended all-black schools. After his mother remarried, they moved to New Rochelle, New York, and he attended an all-white school. After his mother's death, Jean returned to Washington to live with his grandparents. He graduated from an academic black high school. By his early adult years, he refused to be segregated and wanted to be identified only as an American.
Between 1914 and 1917 Jean Toomer attended the University of Wisconsin, the Massachusetts College of Agriculture, the American College of Physical Training in Chicago, the University of Chicago, New York University, and the City College of New York. He majored in agriculture, fitness, biology, sociology, and history but he never completed a degree.
After leaving college, Jean published some short stories and continued writing after World War I. In 1923, Toomer returned to New York where he became friends with Waldo Frank, who became his mentor and editor on his novel Cane. In 1923, he published the novel Cane, in which he used material inspired by his time in Georgia. Below is an excerpt from his novel, Cane. “whisper of yellow globes
gleaming on lamp posts that sway
like bootleg licker drinkers in the fog
and let your breath be moist against me
like bright beads on yellow globes
telephone the power-house
that the main wires are insulate
(her words play up and down
dewy corridors of billboards)
then with your tongue remove the tape
and press your lips to mine
till they are incandescent”
ReadingWoman.com states, “Cane is one of the works of fiction...