Born Nathan Pinchback Toomer in Washington, D.C., mixed racial and ethnic descent (Dutch, French, Native American, Welsh, German, Jewish). His parents were Nathan Toomer and Nina Pinchback. His maternal grandfather was Louisiana Governor P. B. S. Pinchback, the first African American to become Governor of a U.S. state. He spent his childhood attending both all-white and all-black segregated schools. In his early years, Toomer resisted racial classifications and wished to be identified only as an American after going to an all-black school in Washington D.C., then an all-white school in New Rochelle N.Y., then an all-black school in Washington D.C. again. Toomer attended six institutions of higher education between 1914 and 1917 (the University of Wisconsin, the Massachusetts College of Agriculture, the American College of Physical Training in Chicago, the University of Chicago, New York University, and the City College of New York) studying agriculture, fitness, biology, sociology, and history, but he never completed a degree. The readings that he would undertake and the lectures he attended during his college years shaped the direction his writing would take.
Read An Interpretation of Friends Worship by Jean Toomer, free from Project Gutenberg.