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Jean Toomer

Jean Toomer's family was not typical of migrating African Americans settling in the North, or fleeing the South. Each of his maternal grandparents were born of a caucasian father. But a "speck of Black makes you Black." Thus, Toomer's grandfather, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, was a free born black, a Union officer in the Civil War and was elected to the office of Lieutenant Governor and later Acting Governor of Louisiana during Reconstruction. The Pinchback's retired north and settled in the Negro community of the capitol. Thus, Toomer was born, as Nathan Pinchback Toomer into an upper class Negro family in Washington D.C. on December 26, 1894. Shortly after Toomer's birth, his caucasion father deserted his wife and son, and in 1996 Toomer's mother, Nina Toomer, gave him the name Nathan Eugene (which he later shortened to Jean). At the age of ten he was stricken with severe stomach ailments which he survived with a greatly altered life. He showed strength early - when faced with adversity, rather than wring his hands and retreat further into himself, Toomer searched for a plan of action, an intellectual scheme and method to cope with a personal crisis. Toomer writes in Wayward and Seeking, "I had an attitude towards myself that I was superior to wrong-doing and above criticism and reproach ... I seemed to induce, in the grownups, an attitude which made them keep their hands off me; keep, as it were, a respectable distance." Eugene and Nina and a new husband moved to New York in 1906; however, upon Nina's death in 1909, Nathan moved back to Washington and his grandparents.

When Jean Toomer graduated from high school he began traveling. He studied at five places of higher education in a period of less than four years. At the University of Wisconsin, he enrolled in the agriculture program. Half a year later, however, he determined that Wisconsin was an atmosphere not meant for him, and he thus moved to Massachusetts to study at the Massachusetts College of Agriculture. During his period of transition between the two colleges, Toomer found an interest in physical fitness. Before officially enrolling at Massachusetts, he changed his mind, opting instead to begin taking classes at the American College of Physical Training in Chicago. Five months later, in January of 1916, he moved to Chicago to begin his studies. By the fall of 1916 he also

began supplementing his education with studies at the University of Chicago.

"I have lived by turn in Washington, New York, Chicago, and Sparta (Georgia)... I have worked, it seems to me, at everything: selling papers, delivery boy, soda clerk, salesman, shipyard worker, librarian-assistant, physical director, school teacher, grocery clerk, and God knows what all. Neither the universities of Wisconsin or New York gave me what I wanted, so I quit them."

It was in Chicago that Toomer began to broaden his interest in literature. Although evidence shows that, in addition to Dante's Inferno , Toomer was affected by Herman Melville's Moby Dick to such a degree that he actually compared himself to Ishmael by having "mentally turned failure to triumph." One of the most prominent literary characters with whom he became enthralled was Victor Hugo's character Jean Valjean; Toomer

His southern sojourn as a school principal in Sparta, Georgia (1922) found in him the belief that he had located his ancestral roots (from Toomer's experience and influence, Sparta was popularized as an ancestral root source by many of the Harlem Renaissance intelligensia; e.g., Zora Neal Hurston and Langston Hughes both traveled there in the summer of 1927). Thus, he began to write poems, stories, and sketches, especially about southern women whose stretch towards self-realization forced them into conflict with American societal moral attitudes. Upon return to Washington, he repeated his efforts, this time focusing on inhibited Negroes in the North. He made friends with Waldo Frank published in the most important journals. The result, for Toomer, was a book, Cane.

In 1923 Cane was published together with Waldo Frank's Holiday . Frank was a mentor for Toomer, reading much of his work before publication. Toomer edited the manuscript of and actually wrote all the dialogue in Holiday.

A few "important" white people thought Cane was an ... more

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Southern Voting behavior since the 1960s

Voters in many areas of the U.S. are apt to vote differently as a whole from election to election. The nation has also had a decreased turnout rate for the presidential and local elections. The South has typically not followed these patterns that the rest of has seemed to be following. The Southern whites of the U.S. have typically followed and voted for the more conservative candidate and party. Where as the Southern blacks have typically (when they have been able to vote) voted for the more liberal party or candidate. The South was at one time a Democratic stronghold and has in the past 30 years become a typically conservative voting electorate. This tendency of voting by race for the liberal or conservative candidate has been a continuing occurrence. Southern turn out for elections has been significantly lower than the rest of the nation as well over the same time period. This bias of the past 30 years as well as voter turn out has only recently began to change in the South.

In the beginning of and prior to the 1960's the South was a Democratic stronghold and it was rare for there to be any competition from Republicans in these non competitive states (Mulcahy p.56). A poll taken in the 1960's showed that " the southern states were the obvious stronghold of Democratic identification. The extreme case was Louisiana, where 66% identified with the Democratic party"(Black p.44). This all began to change as the Democratic party became more liberal in its national policy views. The Democrats became too liberal in their policies concerning civil rights for the white Southerners to continue voting for them. (Mulcahy p.40). This reason along with others is what drove the Southern whites to change there voting habits of the last 100 years. The white Southerners began to vote for presidents of the Republican party and for Independents such as the Dixiecrats, because they were more conservative on a national scale. The Largest change of the Southern voters occurred in 1960 when "the southern white Protestant presidential vote went Republican"(Wayne p62). This would of allowed for the democrats to lose the south if the black electorate had not voted Democrat.

The black Southern voters at the time of the 1960's were just again able to participate with their rights to vote. This was because shortly after the Civil War and reconstruction the Southern whites reduced and eventually removed the short lived black political power. They added laws that made it mandatory to take tests for voter eligibility, as well as discouraging black voting at all. This discrimination greatly reduced if not completely halted black voting in the south until the 1950's and 1960's. It was not until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act was passed that prohibited literacy tests for federal elections did blacks obtain their constitutional right to vote (Wayne p.70). Many blacks did in fact support the Republican party for quite a long time because they were known as the party of reconstruction and freeing of the slaves. Black voting turned towards the Democrats in the 1930's and 40's on the advice of "One N.A.A.C.P. leader... Turn your pictures of Lincoln to the wall, the debt is paid in full"(Mulcahy p 37). This black voting for the Democrats created a problem in of its self, that the Blacks were continuing to vote for the local white conservative Democrats, that upheld the traditional Southern white views. This lead to the continued power of the oppressive whites, even though the party platform was one of reform. It was not until the early 70's that when the Republicans won the election for the governor of Virginia was the two party system fully revived in the south (U.S. news p. 210). This two party system allowed Democrats to run on a more liberal platform, which gave the blacks the representation that they wanted.

Voting in the South since the 1960's has followed the pattern of voting for the most staunch conservative, or protector of Southern whites views. In the 1968 election Southern whites in the Deep South voted for George C. Wallace, while the rest of the South split on Nixon and ... more

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