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Jean ToomerRace, Repression, and Revolution$
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Barbara Foley

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038440

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038440.001.0001

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Touching Naked Reality

Touching Naked Reality

Socialism, the Labor Movement, and the Embers of Revolution

(p.19) Chapter 1 Touching Naked Reality
Jean Toomer

Barbara Foley

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines how Toomer's interest in class-conscious radical politics was at best transitory and immature. Drawing on his early left-wing journalism, correspondence, handwritten 1936 autobiography, and psychoanalytic records from the late 1940s, the chapter argues that Toomer not only held strongly left-wing views during the Cane period but also remained in some respects a man of the left throughout his life. It also proposes that his social constructionist view of race, usually attributed to his situation as a light-skinned black man able to “pass,” is also traceable to his awareness of race as a product of capitalist exploitation and state-sanctioned racial violence—ideas that are allegorically displayed in his poem Banking Coal.

Keywords:   Jean Toomer, radical politics, left-wing journalism, social constructionism, race, light-skinned blacks, racial violence, Banking Coal

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