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About this poet

Effie Lee Newsome was born on January 19, 1885, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Lee, served as an editor of Philadelphia’s Christian Recorder and was a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Newsome studied, though she did not receive degrees, at Wilberforce University, Oberlin College, the Philadelphia Academy of the Arts, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Newsome was one of the first African American poets who primarily published poems for children. She was the author of one volume of poetry, Gladiola Garden: Poems of Outdoors and Indoors for Second Grade Readers (The Associated Publishers, 1940), and she published numerous poems in the Crisis, Opportunity, and other leading journals of the Harlem Renaissance.  She also edited the children’s column “Little Page” in the Crisis. Her poems helped her young readers celebrate their own beauty and recognize themselves in fairy tales, folklore, and nature.

She married the Rev. Henry Nesby Newsome in 1920, and together they moved to Birmingham, Alabama. After her husband died in 1937, Newsome returned to Wilberforce, Ohio, where she worked as the children’s librarian at Central State University. She died in 1979.


Bibliography

Wonders: the Best Children’s Poems of Effie Lee Newsome (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 1999)
Gladiola Garden: Poems of Outdoors and Indoors for Second Grade Readers (The Associated Publishers, 1940)

Morning Light

(The Dew-drier)

It is a custom in some parts of Africa for travelers into the jungles to send before them in the early morning little African boys called “Dew-driers” to brush with their bodies the dew from the high grasses—and be, perchance, the first to meet the leopard’s or hyena’s challenge—and so open the road. “Human Brooms,” Dan Crawford calls them.

Brother to the firefly—
For as the firefly lights the night
So lights he the morning—
Bathed in the dank dews as he goes forth
Through heavy menace and mystery
Of half-waking tropic dawns,
Behold a little black boy, a naked black boy,
Sweeping aside with his slight frame
Night’s pregnant tears,
And making a morning path to the light
For the tropic traveler!

Bathed in the blood of battle,
Treading toward a new morning,
May not his race—its body long bared to the world’s disdain,
Its face schooled to smile for a light to come—
May not his race, even as the dew-boy leads,
Bear onward the world toward a new day-dawn
When tolerance, forgiveness,
Such as reigned in the heart of One
Whose heart was gold,
Shall shape the earth for that fresh dawning
     After the dews of blood?


This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Effie Lee Newsome

Effie Lee Newsome was born in 1885 in Philadelphia. One of the first African American poets who primarily published poems for children, she was the author of one volume of poetry, Gladiola Garden (The Associated Publishers, 1940),

by this poet

poem

O Autumn, Autumn! O pensive light
     and wistful sound!
Gold-haunted sky, green-haunted ground!

When, wan, the dead leaves flutter by
     Deserted realms of butterfly!
When robins band themselves together

     To seek the sound of sun-steeped weather;
And all of summer’s

poem

(To a Brown Boy)

‘Tis a noble gift to be brown, all brown,
     Like the strongest things that make up this earth,
Like the mountains grave and grand,
     Even like the very land,
     Even like the trunks of trees—
     Even oaks, to be like these!
God builds His strength in