NW Quadrant, East of Rock Creek, African American, Harlem Renaissance Era

Jean Toomer
(December 26, 1894 - March 30, 1967)

1422 Harvard St. NW, Columbia Heights neighborhood, DC.

Toomer is best known as the author of Cane (1923), a collection of fiction and poems set in Georgia and Washington, DC, widely acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of the Harlem Renaissance. He also published plays and essays. His Collected Poems were published posthumously in 1988.

Toomer was born in DC and lived in this city and NewRochelle, NY as a child, returning to DC after his mother's death to live with his grandfather, P.B.S. Pinchback, the first African American US governor. He attended segregated African American public schools, Garnet Elementary and Dunbar High School. Of mixed race, Toomer later renounced racial classification, identifying only as American. He married twice, both times to white women. He studied with the spiritual leader George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff in France, led Unitism communities in New York and Chicago, and later joined the Quakers.

Links

Beltway Poetry Quarterly, "Langston Hughes in Washington DC: Conflict and Class" (refers in some length to Toomer's influence on Hughes)