Nathan Toomer, Sr. was born in Chatham Co., NC and was sold, (along with his mother, Kit), from the R. J. Pilkington plantation to Henry Toomer as his body servant when he was 13 years old.
In the early 1850’s, Henry Toomer (slaveowner) along with his slaves moved to Houston County, Perry, Georgia. After slavery, Nathan married Harriet Toomer, they had 5 daughters. Nathan acquired hundreds of acres of land; and several ex-slaves were sharecroppers on this land.
In 1885 he was appointed minister of Liberia. In July 1892, Nathan married a second time, to Amanda America Dickson from Augusta, GA. She reigned the richest woman in Georgia after inheriting the wealth of her slaveowner father. She died 11 months into their marriage and Nathan inherited part of her wealth. In 1893 Nathan sued (and lost) the Pullman Car company for the death of Amanda.
Shortly thereafter, Nathan sold all of his property in Houston County and set out for Chatham Co., North Carolina to the plantation of his birth He visited with long lost family members that still resided on the plantation. He shared a little of his fortune with them and left for NY, then on to Washington D.C. There he met and married his third wife, Nina E. Pinchback. Nathan and Nina had one son, Nathan Eugene Pinchback (Jean)Toomer. By 1898 Nina filed for divorce and Nathan returned to Augusta, Georgia and later to Macon Georgia and lived out the rest of his life.
Nathan’s son, Nathan Pinchback “Jean” Toomer, became a well know author during the Harlem Renaissance for his 1923 novel, Cane. An influential work about African American life. In the fall of 1921, he accepted a short-term job as a substitute principal at the Sparta Agricultural and Industrial Institute, in the Oconee River valley of middle Georgia. Questions of his identity and spiritual harmony led him in the teachings of Scientology.
In 1940 Toomer joined the Quakers. He lectured for the Religious Society of Friends and wrote extensively for Quaker publications in the 1940s and 1950s. Although he wrote throughout his life, Toomer's literary visibility effectively ended in 1936, with the last publication in his lifetime, the long poem "Blue Meridian," which celebrated the potential of an "American" race, a "blue" hybrid that would incorporate and extend the spirits of the black, white, and red races.
Throughout the census, Nathan and his family are listed as “White”. Toomer died in a Pennsylvania nursing home on March 30, 1967. In 2002 Toomer was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.