Jean Toomer

Jean Toomer (born Nathan Pinchback Toomer; December 26, 1894 March 30, 1967) was an American poet and novelist commonly associated with the Harlem Renaissance, though he actively resisted the association, and modernism. His reputation stems from his novel Cane (1923), which Toomer wrote during and after a stint as a school principal at a black school in rural Sparta, Georgia. The novel intertwines the stories of six women and includes an apparently autobiographical thread; sociologist Charles S. Johnson called it “the most astonishingly brilliant beginning of any Negro writer of his generation”. He resisted being classified as a Negro writer, as he identified as “American”. For more than a decade Toomer was an influential follower and representative of the pioneering spiritual teacher G.I. Gurdjieff. Later in life he took up Quakerism.
Toomer continued to write poetry, short stories and essays. His first wife died soon after the birth of their daughter. After he married again in 1934, Toomer moved with his family from New York to Doylestown, Pennsylvania. There he became a member of the Religious Society of Friends (also known as Quakers) and retired from public life. His papers are held by the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University.
Born Nathan Pinchback Toomer in Washington, D.C. in 1894, the son of Nathan Toomer (18391906), a former enslaved man and farmer of mixed race, and his third wife Nina Elizabeth Pinchback (18661909), whose parents became free people of color prior to the Civil War.


eBooks: An Interpretation of Friends Worship | Cane

Works by Jean Toomer: