Seventh Street


For my post I would like to highlight the first few lines of Toomer’s “Seventh Street”…

Seventh Street is a bastard of Prohibition and the War. A crude-boned, soft skinned wedge of n-word life breathing its loafer air, jazz songs, and love, thrusting unconscious rhythms, black reddish blood into the white and whitewashed wood of Washington. Stale soggy wood of Washington. Wedges rust in soggy wood … Split it! In two! Again! Shred it! … the sun.

Along with starting this poem, these lines also mark the beginning of the second section of Cane and I find them to be both extremely powerful and significant. To start our discussion I would like to raise several questions: what does this very crude explanation of Washington represent? Is there any importance to the setting of this poem? And what type of metaphor could the splitting of the wood represent besides that of white vs. black? 


Zach Torp


12 thoughts on “Seventh Street

  1. I thought the splitting of wood not only represented black and white, but also class separation as well. I also thought that the setting of the poem was in Washington D.C.

    Danielle Ross

  2. I believe the crude representation of washington is similar to how crude the act of racial inequality is. The wedge is the distinct color line. But as the passage states, that line usually reflects and is associated with black people instead of white people. The term colored people was coined this way too, but we don’t say colorless people as in white people. As far as the wedge, I think it stands for the unwanted bias of the color line. Black people were specifically targeted because it is easier to notice they have a different skin color. The wedge was going to rust if control hadn’t been restored, if the log hadn’t been split, but if the wedge stays in the wood and splinters its way in it will rust and deteriorate. I think this passage is sarcastically mimicking the ridiculous standards be held back in the middle of the 1900’s because God forbid we let the wedge rust and never split the log…

  3. This is similar to the documentary that we watched on jazz. It explained that jazz music had earned a reputation for being connected with the negative outcomes of Prohibition and the War. Anita hits the nail on the head when she mentions racial inequality. As she states, “I think this passage is sarcastically mimicking the ridiculous standards be held back in the middle of the 1900’s…”, which it really is.
    Erika K.

  4. The splitting of the wood could also be representative of the “double consciousness” that W.E.B. Dubois talks about. That is, the inner struggle of a person who is both black AND American when in the eyes of white America, you could only be one or the other.


  5. I think the splitting of wood represents class differences, like Danielle said, and maybe the splitting of D.C. into safe and unsafe places. But I think maybe it’s also showing that whites and blacks lived close together, and segregation was really ridiculous because you couldnt ever really be away from the people you were trying to avoid.

    -Savanna Beach

  6. You split wood to start fires, and the splitting of the white wood of Washington could symbolize the emotions that African Americans felt towards government. You have all of these images of a vibrant community, and the idea that they make up the blood that pulses through the veins of Washington, and yet African Americans were not remotely represented with respect or equality at this time. I think this quote is kind of pointing out the irony and ridiculousness of racism.

  7. I agree with all of these responses! Several of them gave me a new perspective compared to what I had originally interpreted!

    It might be a stretch; however, in answer to my second question about the setting, I believe that the location of Washington is very significant in its connection to the North and South. Sitting directly on the border of Maryland(northern) and Virginia(southern) it incorporates both African-American city life and southern folk traditions. With these themes in one place, the writer is able to compare and contrast the lifestyles in one location.


  8. ZT is on the money! Washington: is it Northern or Southern? We’ll discuss it as a “liminal space,” a borderzone, a “stitching point” of passage between discretely walled-off identities.

  9. Sorry for coming in a little late on this one but I like the idea of challenging the Black and White version of America that people like to imagine. Here readers see their capital city described as the bastard child of two vastly unpopular events filled with streets over flowing with blood. This is not exactly the image of DC that we see today; white marble buildings and monuments filled with the greatest minds and leaders the country has to offer is not the image Toomer had in mind. It begs the question that to this day has no definitive answer. In a world painted black and white, with supporters from each side of the fence violently defending their positions, when is it okay to be gray? This novel has very valuable lessons neatly tucked away inside, you simply have to stay awake long enough while reading to uncover them.

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