An American novelist and poet, he was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance. He is most famous for Cane, a series of vignettes about the lives of African-Americans.
He attended six colleges and studied agriculture, fitness, biology, sociology, and history; however, he never received a degree.
He taught at an African-American school in Sparta, Georgia during the 1920s.
He married Marjorie Content, his second wife, in 1934.
His first novel, Cane, was heavily influenced by the work of Sherwood Anderson.