“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Pikeville in Pike County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)

Effie Waller Smith


Effie Waller Smith Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, October 20, 2019
1. Effie Waller Smith Marker
Inscription.  Born in Pike County, this poet was a daughter of former slaves, Frank and Sibbie Waller. All of their children attained a greater degree of education than usual at that time. They earned teaching certificates at Ky. State Normal School for Colored Persons (now Ky. State University) in Frankfort.
Erected 1995 by Kentucky Historical Society and Kentucky Department of Highways. (Marker Number 1959.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicWomen. In addition, it is included in the Kentucky Historical Society series list.
Location. 37° 28.859′ N, 82° 31.127′ W. Marker is in Pikeville, Kentucky, in Pike County. Marker is on Hambley Boulevard (Business U.S. 460) just north of Division Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 111 Scott Avenue, Pikeville KY 41501, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. John Paul Riddle (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Pike Co. Courthouse and Jail (about
Effie Waller Smith Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, October 20, 2019
2. Effie Waller Smith Marker
800 feet away); To the Memory of the Revolutionary Soldiers (about 800 feet away); County Named, 1821 (approx. 0.2 miles away); Col. John Dils, Jr. (approx. 0.2 miles away); “Spirit of the American Doughboy” (approx. 0.2 miles away); Pikeville College (approx. 0.2 miles away); McCoy House (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pikeville.
Additional comments.
1. Songs of the Months
1909 book of poetry by Effie Waller published in New York. Introduction:
... Miss Effie, the author of this book, as well as the others, had quite a struggle to acquire an education. Being the youngest, she was kept away from school during a great portion of each term, since the only colored school in this whole section was situated at Pikeville, several miles distant from her former home. But she pursued her studies with her mother’s help, and attended school as regularly as she could, and finally was able to obtain a teacher's certificate.

She then began to teach, taking the money she saved, and paying her expenses at the Colored
Miss Effie Waller image. Click for full size.
Frontispiece from Rhymes from the Cumberland by Effie Waller
3. Miss Effie Waller
State Normal School, at Frankfort, until she has obtained an excellent education, and she expects to still press forward until she has fully completed it.

Miss Waller’s poems, as all who read them will observe, are possessed of much pathos and beauty, having an originality all their own. Who knows, that like Paul Lawrence Dunbar she may not one day surprise and delight her own race, and cause white critics to wonder at her genius.

She displays much rhythmic talent in the poem “In Memory of W. Hughs,” a dead classmate, from which the following is taken:
It was in the month of June, and the woods were all atune.
All atune with bird music sweet and rare;
And the flowers were all in bloom, shedding
forth their sweet, rich perfume
On the breezy atmosphere everywhere.

Then she touchingly refers to their meeting at that time, and of their future association, and the last stanza runs like this:
Little thought I, friend of mine,
You'd be called so soon to shine
In that galaxy of diadems up there;
But it was our Father’s will
And He speaks to-day: “Be still!”
To my sad and sorrow-stricken heart down here.

The scholarly Rev. Peter Clay, a writer of great ability, and who knows our gifted little poet, a few years ago gave vent to his admiration in
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rhyme as follows:
Far up among the mountains,
Where rivers leave their fountains,
And happy birds send forth their merry thrills;
There dwells a little poet,
Though few there be who know it,
Whose voice is an echo from the hills.

You may not like her station,
For she is not Caucasian,
Yet God with music touched the singer’s heart;
And thoughts in liquid measure
Doth flow out like a treasure,
To charm us with the poet’s mystic art.

In Miss Waller’s verse there is that simply beautiful, lyrical quality, by which Keats and Burns charm and win all hearts.

A competent New York critic, Mr. S. G. Clow, says of Miss Waller's book:
Here indeed are poems written close to nature's heart!

Rarely have we seen such faithful, loving pictures, as within the covers of this charming book, of nature in all her moods and of simple homelike things, which steal us away from the city’s din back to the country lanes and the old kitchen porch which we knew so long ago.... By this beautiful anthology Miss Waller has done credit and honor to her race. Like her gifted compatriot, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, she will do much to dissolve the foolish prejudice of color, and to prove that poetic genius is the heritage of their race as well as ours.

A unique, a wonderful book! If you desire a
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breath of odorous country air fresh from the dear old Southland you must read it!
—Mary Elliott Flanery.
    — Submitted March 5, 2020.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 5, 2020. It was originally submitted on March 5, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 68 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on March 5, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
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Mar. 4, 2021