Jean Toomer (1894-1967) was born into a prominent black family in Washington, D.C., but it wasn’t until he returned to the land of agrarian Georgia that he was inspired to write his masterpiece Cane (1923), a towering achievement that went on to influence the writers of the Harlem Renaissance and the Lost Generation. While Toomer’s own life presents a portrait of a man searching for an identity in a world of too-rigid categorization, the confident and self-assured Cane stands for a universality that defies categorization and bridges American divisions. In this episode, host Jacke Wilson reflects upon his own search for identity in small-town Wisconsin, which coincidentally was one of the places where Jean Toomer landed as well.
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“I Been ‘Buked” (trad. Negro Spiritual), performed by the Georgia Spiritual Ensemble.