Headlines of Yore

Remembering an acclaimed Doylestown poet whose interracial marriage was denigrated as ‘an experiment’

Though his works are often categorized as part of the Harlem Renaissance, Jean Toomer did not often identify himself as Black.

Passport issued to Jean Toomer

Passport issued to Jean Toomer

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
aviwolfmanarent

What happens when you mix an interracial marriage during the 1930s and a dose of literary fame? Tabloid-style intrigue.

The story begins with the relationship between acclaimed poet Jean Toomer, who was Black, and the then-budding author Margey Latimer, who was white. Latimer died at 33 shortly after giving birth to the couple’s only daughter, but her death made headlines because of the intense media scrutiny of their marriage.

The pair met in 1931 while living on a farm-slash-commune in Wisconsin. They married shortly after — and once their relationship became public knowledge, local news covered their union with racist hysteria.

At one point, The Inquirer even called their marriage “an experiment in human behavior.”

Two years after the death of his first wife, Toomer remarried, this time to the Jewish photographer Marjorie Content. They bought a farm in Doylestown, where they passed the rest of their lives. Posthumously, Toomer’s works and his feelings on his own race have become the subject of major scholarship.

Follow the thread below for a deeper dive.

Want some more? Explore other Headlines of Yore stories.

Mornings are for coffee and local news

Billy Penn’s free morning newsletter gives you a daily roundup of the top Philly stories you need to start your day.

You finished another Billy Penn article — keep it up!

We hope you found it useful, fun, or maybe even both. If you want more stories like this, will you join us as a member today?

Nice to see you (instead of a paywall)

Billy Penn’s mission is to provide free, quality information to Philadelphians through our articles and daily newsletter. If you believe local journalism is key to a healthy community, join us!

Your donation brought this story to life

Billy Penn only exists because of supporters like you. If you find our work valuable, consider making a sustaining donation today.

Being informed looks good on you

Thanks for reading another article, made possible by members like you. Want to share BP with a friend?