Jean Toomer

African-American Literature

Jean Toomer (1894—1967) studied at the University of Wisconsin and the City College of New York, and in the early 1920s went to Sparta, Georgia to teach. He had already begun writing poems and stories, but it was from this experience in the segregated South that Toomer drew much of the subject matter and the form for Cane (1923), considered the first fully mature work of the Southern Literary Renascence of the years following World War I. This complex work enunciates and exemplifies the problems of definition and identity that confronted Jean Toomer in his own life. For he was almost white in appearance and once wrote: “I am of no particular race. I am one of the human race, a man at large in the human world, preparing a new race.” Jean Toomer’s familiarity with and involvement in the leading intellectual and artistic currents of his era are evident in his book’s brilliant show of stylistic effects, experimental virtuosity, and psychological and linguistic techniques. Ultimately, Cane is a brilliant affirmation of the Southern black heritage.


Portrait in Georgia

Georgia Dusk