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Fri, 08.16.1839

Nathan Toomer, Freedmen born

Nathan Toomer Gravestone

*On this date in 1839, we celebrate the birth of Nathan Toomer. He was a Black freedman and farmer.

Nathan Toomer was born into slavery in Chatham County, North Carolina, and sold to Col. Henry Toomer. Nathan worked for Henry Toomer as a personal valet and assistant before and after the American Civil War, learning the ways of the white upper class. He later took his former master's surname after emancipation.

Toomer married and became a farmer in Georgia; he and his wife had four daughters. After the death of his first wife, Nathan married Amanda America Dickson, a mixed-race woman whose inheritance from her white planter father resulted in great wealth. She was called the "wealthiest colored woman in America." She died intestate in 1893 after about a year of marriage. After a legal struggle with her children, which did not end until years after his third marriage, Nathan received almost no inheritance. Later in 1893, Toomer, at age 54, married 28-year-old Nina Elizabeth Pinchback, a wealthy young black woman. Her father, P. B. S. Pinchback, was a Republican politician during Reconstruction.

Pinchback was suspicious of Nathan Toomer and strongly opposed his daughter's choice for marriage but ultimately acquiesced in her choice. After frequent travels, the senior Nathan Toomer abandoned his wife and son and returned to Georgia. Unable to pay alimony, he sought to gain some of his late second wife's estate. Nina divorced him and took back her name of Pinchback; she and her son returned to live with her parents.

At that time, angered by her husband's abandonment, her father insisted they use another name for her son and started calling him Eugene, after the boy's godfather. The boy also was given a variety of nicknames by various family members. He saw his father once in 1897 in Washington, DC, after he had gone to Georgia; Nathan Toomer died in 1906.

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