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Effie Lee Newsome

(1885—1979)


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Brownies' Book

Langston Hughes (1902—1967) American writer

Bontemps, Arna (1902—1973)

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868—1963) American writer, sociologist, and political activist

 

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(1885–1979), children's poet, short fiction writer, and editor of a literary column for children in the Crisis from 1925 to 1929.

Effie Lee Newsome (born Mary Effie Lee) was an important link between the Brownies’ Book (1920–1922) and works for children in the 1930s by such writers as Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps. Under W. E. B. Du Bois's editorship of the Crisis, New-some was recruited to establish a regular column where she could delight children with nature poetry, nonsense verse, and parables about the unique experience of being young and African American in the racially biased 1920s.

The poem in the Crisis (Oct. 1922) entitled “The Bronze Legacy” (“”“Tis a noble gift to be brown, all brown” and the fable in the August 1928 issue, “On the Pelican's Back” (a comedy in which an arrogant white bird learns a humbling lesson), are significant examples of an early multicultural literature for the young.

On a personal plane, Newsome was an intellectual surrounded by prominent African Americans of her day. She had extensive university training at Wilberforce, Oberlin, and the University of Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Dr. Benjamin Franklin Lee, a president of Wilberforce University and a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She also married a minister: the Reverend Henry Nesby Newsome. Her poems for adult readers are included in Hughes's and Bontemps's The Poetry of the Negro, 1746–1949 (1949), and she anthologized some of her poems for children in Gladiola Garden (1940).

Newsome decried the dearth of African and African American images in children's books and dedicated herself to giving youngsters two great gifts: a keen sense of their own inestimable value and an avid appreciation of the natural world.

Effie Lee Newsome, ”Child Literature and Negro Childhood,” Crisis 34.8 (Oct. 1927): 260, 280, 282.Donnarae MacCann, “”Effie Lee Newsome: African American Poet of the 1920s,” Children's Literature Association Quarterly (Summer 1988): 60–65.

Donnarae MacCann

Subjects: literature.


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