poem index


Effie Lee Newsome

Printer-friendly version

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.


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)

by this poet


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


(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


(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—