The Harlem Renaissance was an intellectual and literary period of growth promoting a new African American cultural identity in the United States. The years of 1920 and 1990 and “were clear peak periods of African American cultural production.” During these years blacks were able to come together and form a united group that expressed a desire for enlightenment. “It is difficult not to recognize the signs that African Americans are in the midst of a cultural renaissance” (English 807). This renaissance allowed Blacks to have a uniform voice in a society based upon intellectual growth. The front-runners of this revival were extremely focused on cultural growth through means of intellect, literature, art and music. By using these means of growth, they hoped to destroy the pervading racism and stereotypes suffocating the African American society and yearned for racial and social integration. Many black writers spoke out during this span of time with books proving their natural humanity and desire for equality.
In 1923 Jean Toomer’s Cane was published by the Boni and Liveright publishing company and received favorable reviews. The book was released during the heart of the Harlem Renaissance and promoted the encouragement and interest in African American culture. For the next forty years, Cane was not printed and seemed to fade away as an influential book. Many publishers claimed Cane was too insubstantial to reprint and denied the revival of the book. In 1967 the book was finally reprinted. The reprinting came during a time known as The Second Renaissance. During The Harlem Renaissance and The Second Renaissance, both times of revival and rebirth of a culture, Toomer’s novel was printed. Thus showing the significance of Toomer’s art during times of resurrection for African American culture.
The book explains how other races in the North and in the South viewed blacks. Each part of the United States had their different standpoints towards blacks and the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance were devoted to crushing the negative attitudes placed upon the Afro-Americans. During this time race was a social construct. Everyday lives were affected by skin color whether people were aware or not. For years African Americans were shunned into a classification that viewed their society as less than human. Toomer’s novel shows the ability race has to affect and intersect different aspects and domains of society and life, as well as dismantle it. Jean Toomer created this piece of art for a reason. Cane suggests that the social construct created upon race should be avoided, for people of all different social classes have equal potential for success.
Jean Toomer was born Nathnan Eugene Pinchback Toomer, on December 26, 1894 in Washington, D.C. His father was Nathan Toomer, a light skinned man who could pass for white, and his mother, Nina Pinchback was of African descent, but was also light skinned. Her father was the governor of...