Jean Toomer’s Refusal

Jean Toomer

Jean Toomer refused to be classified, and it cost him. When he rejected his classification as a black writer, when he listed his race as “white” on draft registration cards, he generated ill-will among the other voices of the New Negro renaissance that had once celebrated him. Toomer’s insistence that he “stood for a synthesis in the matters of the mind and spirit …[due] to the actual fact of at least six blood minglings,” seems, though, not to repudiate any single race, but to demand something more complicated than binary–a demand that remains unheeded.