lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info, extraordinary women, my books!

Madam C. J. Walker, First Female Self-Made Millionaire in U.S.

I am putting up some posts from the past about extraordinary people of colour. #blacklivesmatter

By Scurlock Studio (Washington, D.C.) (photographers). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Madam C. J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, the last of six children, on December 23rd, 1867, in Louisiana.

Sarah’s parents and four older brothers and one sister were slaves on Robert W. Burney’s Madison Parish plantation, but Sarah was born a free child, as the Emancipation Proclamation was signed before her birth.

Her mum died when she was 5 and her dad died when she was 7 – she lived with her older sister Louvenia, and brother-in-law Jesse Powell in Mississippi, and became a domestic servant at the age of 10.

She married at the age of 14, and had one daughter, Lelia, who was 2 when her husband died – she remarried but left this husband and moved to Missouri. There she married again, Charles Joseph Walker, a newspaper advertising salesman. Although she eventually divorced him in 1912, she kept his name and became known as Madam C. J. Walker.

In 1888 she moved to Saint Louis, Missouri, where three of her brothers, who were barbers, lived. She learned about hair care from them, and ended up selling hair care products for an African hair care entrepreneur, Annie Turbo Malone.

Sarah began to adapt the products and develop her own product line. From there, she started her own career.

Between 1911 and 1919, during the height of her career, Sarah and her company employed several thousand women as sales agents for its products, and employed 20,000 women selling products door to door. She also understood the power of advertising and harnessed this to advertise in African American newspapers and magazines.

She encouraged her employees by giving prizes to the best sales agents – helped other black women build their own careers, and rewarded those who made the largest contributions to charities in their communities.

She became a political activist, promoting black interests, and donating money to black causes. Profits from her business helped her donate to many causes and in 1918 the National Association of Coloured Women’s Clubs honoured her for making the largest individual contribution to help preserve Frederick Douglass’s Anacostia house. She pledged $5,000 to the NAACP’s anti-lynching fund. At the time it was the largest gift the NAACP had ever received. She also bequeathed nearly $100,000 to orphanages, institutions, and individuals and her will directed two-thirds of future net profits of her estate to charity.

She was one of the wealthiest African American women in the US, the WORLD’S MOST SUCCESSFUL FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR of her time, (let alone most successful black woman!) and one of the most successful African-American business owners ever.

She died on May 25th, 1919.

Eventually, by the 1920s, her empire expanded as far as Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Panama, and Costa Rica, carried on by her daughter.

The firm is still going today strong today as evidenced by their reply to my tweet of this post! Hooray!


If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan.




Ruby Bridges, First Black Child in a White School.

I’m posting a few past posts on extraordinary people of colour. #blacklivesmatter

By Uncredited DOJ photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s blog is by the other fellow author of my book, Reaching for the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, the wonderful and talented Michaela Morgan:


The poem My First Day at School, by Michaela Morgan, commemorates Ruby Bridges, who, at the age of six, made the historic walk towards her local elementary school as the first black child to enter a school previously denied to black children.

She had to be marched in surrounded by US marshals to protect her from the angry mob, and for some time was the only child taught in the school, as other parents kept their children out of school rather than send them to a non-segregated establishment.

Ruby Bridges is now a grandmother. She continues to make her voice and presence felt in the fight for human rights.


My First Day at School


I remember . . .

Momma scrubbed my face, hard.

Plaited my hair, tight.

Perched a hopeful white bow on my head,

Like a butterfly hoping for flight.

She shone my shoes, black, shiny, neat.

Another hopeful bow, on each toe,

To give wings to my feet.

My dress was standing to attention, stiff with starch.

My little battledress.

And now, my march.

Two marshals march in front of me.

Two marshals march behind of me.

The people scream and jeer at me.

Their faces are red, not white.

The marshals tower above me, a grey-legged wall.

Broad of back, white of face and tall, tall, tall.

I only see their legs and shoes as black and shiny as mine.

They march along, stern and strong. I try to march in time.

One hisses to another, ‘Slow down it ain’t a race.

She only take little bitty girlie steps.’

I quicken my pace.

Head up.

Eyes straight.

I march into school.

To learn like any other kid can.

And maybe to teach a lesson too.


© Michaela Morgan

Appears in Reaching for the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls.


If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan.



The above facts and poem appear in Reaching for the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women  and Girls, Pub. Macmillan Books.

Image – Wikipedia

Ida B Wells, Early Fighter Against Institutional Racism

I’m posting a few of my past posts about extraordinary people of colour. #blacklivesmatter

Mary Garrity Restored by Adam Cuerden Based on image originally from NAEMVZELXQV2iw

at Google Cultural Institute

I wish I had more room to tell the complete story of this extraordinary woman. She was intelligent, she was brave, she never gave up, despite many, many setbacks…

Ida B Wells was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on July 16th, 1862, and died on March 25th 1931.

When she was 16 she was visiting her grandmother when she received information that both of her parents and her youngest brother had died in a yellow fever outbreak.

To save the family (6 other children) from being split up she went to work as a teacher in an elementary school. She resented the fact that she was only paid $30 whilst her white counterparts were paid $80 for exactly the same job – and this sparked a lifetime interest in suffrage, racial equality and improving the education of black people.

She moved to Memphis where teaching pay was better, and in her spare time attended two universities.

In 1884 a train conductor ordered her to give up her (paid for) seat in first class, and she refused – SEVENTY years before Rosa Parks did the same thing. She was dragged out and took the railroad to court – and won $500, which outrageously and sadly she lost again on appeal, having to pay court costs.

She went on to become an activist, documenting lynching, showing it was often used as whites to control or punish black people who were in some way competing in business or otherwise with whites – and the usual excuses of ‘rapes’ or ‘criminal acts’ spurring the lynchings were in fact codswallop. (My word!)

As well as working in the Civil Rights Movement, she became prominent in the suffragist movement, establishing severable notable women’s organisations, and her ability with rhetoric earned her work as a journalist which she used as a mouthpiece for her contentious but entirely justified views.

An extraordinary woman indeed.


If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan .


Facts from:




Sister Rosetta Tharpe


I’m posting a few of my past posts about extraordinary people of colour. #blacklivesmatter

Sister Rosetta Tharpe – AMAZING!

Rosetta Tharpe was born Rosetta Nubin on a cotton plant in Arkansas, on the 20th of March, 1915, and died in 1973, in Philadelphia, after a long career as a musician. Her parents were cotton pickers. Little is known about her father except he was a singer – her mother also was a singer and mandolin player, evangelist, and preacher for the Church of God in Christ, a church that encouraged musical expression.

Rosetta soon began playing the guitar and singing, and by age six was touring with her mother in an evangelical troupe.

By the mid 20s, she and her mother had moved to Chicago, performing religious concerts and also travelling to perform at events all over the country.

Rosetta became famous as a musical prodigy. Black, female guitarists were rare.

When she was 19 she married  Thomas Thorpe, a COGIC preacher, who accompanied her and her mother on their tours, but the marriage did not last – however she kept the name ‘Tharpe’ for her stage name, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

She had a unique style, a mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment that was a prelude to rock and roll… she has been referred to as the original ‘soul sister’ and influenced such greats as Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry-Lee Lewis.

The video above was taken when she visited Manchester, England in 1964 – I chose this recording because it’s a song I have sung in choir. But not like this!

It gives a taste of an extraordinary woman.

If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan.



Y is for Malala Yousafzai

Over the next few days I will post some of my posts from the past about inspirational people of colour. #Blacklivesmatter

Wikimedia Commons

This entry is by my guest blogger Michaela Morgan,  one of my fellow authors of Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, also by me and Jan Dean, published by Macmillan. This poem and the entry are found in the book.

.Malala Yousafzai was born on 2 July 2 1997 in the Swat district in Pakistan. She is known because on the afternoon of 9 October 2012, she was seriously injured after a Taliban gunman attempted to murder her. After extensive medical care Malala eventually recovered.

She has since continued to work for education and rights for girls. On 12 July 2015, her 18th birthday, she opened a school in the near the Syrian border, for Syrian refugees. The school, funded by the Malala Fund, offers education and training to girls aged 14 to 18 years. Malala called on world leaders to invest in “books, not bullets”.

She believes in the power of books to change the world.


On the afternoon of October 9, 2012, Malala boarded her school bus in the northwest Pakistani district of Swat. A gunman asked for her by name, then pointed a pistol at her and fired three shots into her head. She survived, recovered, and continues her fight for rights. She is now the youngest ever winner of the Noble Peace Prize.




A girl with a book.

A girl with a book.

That’s what has scared them –

A girl, with a book.


They get onto the bus.

They call out my name.

They aim. And they fire.

A shot to the brain.


Because a girl with a book,

A girl with a voice,

A girl with a brain,

A girl with a choice,

 A girl with a plan

To have rights, like a man.

That’s what they’re scared of

One girl, with a book.


A girl who has words.

A girl with a pen.

A girl to be heard

With support of her friends

Who want to live free –

That’s what they fear

a girl just like me.


© Michaela Morgan




Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls

Image: By DFID – UK Department for International Development (Malala Yousafzai: Education for girls) via Wiki Commons.

Madagascan Robber Moth

Time for a poetry video! This is about an amazing moth that was discovered in a Madagascan forest, at night, and which has only been seen once since. There are specialised moths that feed on tears of animals that can’t brush them away, but one has never been seen on a bird before.


If you are a teacher or parent or young person learning from home, if you haven’t discovered the excellent Russel Prue and Pie Corbett’s radioblogging show, on EVERY day, then you are missing out!

Lots of interviews with poets and authors, great writing ideas, readings, fun literacy games… the list goes on.

It’s all very interactive – young people can use the Padlet, a snazzy device, new to me, to send in their lines of poetry or writing, and to give their reactions as well as their creative responses.

A great learning resource.  Just tune in to at 9:30 every morning. Here is the link to me on the show this morning, because each show is recorded so you can listen to past recordings – I’m at about 18:20 but the whole show is very well worth listening to! with Liz Brownlee’s poem!

If you follow me on here you probably know that over on my sister blog, Poetry Roundabout, there are a lot of poetry resources – interviews with poets, poems, funny poems a day often with a joke, poetry book reviews, artwork, etc.etc.

Hope you are all doing well in your isolations!

At the Poetry Library, Southbank!

On Monday 17 February 2020, at the Southbank Children’s Poetry Library, as part of Imagine Festival for Children, I read some poems with the editor of this wonderful book, Poems From a Green and Blue Planet, the lovely Sabrina Mahfouz. A recording was made by the National Poetry Library, an adventure into snowy mountains and deep blue oceans, celebrating the world we live in.

If you’d like to listen, it’s here: National Poetry Library.

Poetry, Lola and Medical Detection Dogs

Some of you may know, but maybe some of you don’t, that I have an assistance dog. A number of  years ago, it was suggested by my consultant that I might want to have a pancreas transplant, due to the number of low blood sugars and unconscious episodes I was having, as I have no warning symptoms.

This made life a bit scary, especially going to sleep at night – I was never sure if I would wake up the next morning. Going out alone was always a bit of a trial, too. I looked into a pancreas transplant and decided not to go for one. Instead, I applied for a medical detection dog, and after being on their waiting list, Medical Detection Dogs in Milton Keynes helped train Lola for me.

I’ve had Lola for 10 years now, and she has been brilliant. She lets me know before my blood sugar is too low or too high, so I can do something about it, and she has saved my life on a number of occasions. Nowadays I also have a sensor which also reads my blood sugar and sends a signal to my pump, and it also warns me – but it’s not as fast as Lola, and sometimes when it’s calibrating I don’t have it. Lola also alerts when I’m out, and can hear the alarms when I can’t, so she still earns her keep! She has enabled me to be a poet and to be able to go out to schools etc.

So – the reason for this post. Medical Detection dogs is a wonderful charity. Their dogs are the ones being trained to detect various cancers way before traditional methods used by medical science can. Dogs are also trained for a number of conditions like Ehlers Danlos syndrome where sufferers can collapse at any moment without warning. Their dogs alert so there is time to lie down safely, so the dogs’ owners are able to go out alone.

My daughter Emmelie is raising money for this charity by running a half marathon. If you have any spare pennies, and any amount would be welcome, do think of supporting her!

Thank you from Lola and me for reading this far!


Can I Mention Christmas?

It turns out that all the books I have done for Macmillan have a green theme… so I made a Christmas tree! Should you be searching for a Christmas present… Be the Change, the newest book, written with Matt Goodfellow and Roger Stevens, are poems to help you save the world. Each poem has a little tip at the end, a simple thing that a child can do to help save the world. Oh! And it’s on FSC paper and board, and has no plastic on the cover to go with the all sustainable poems!

If you’d like to know how how to make a Christmas tree out of any pictures, I used Word – images of the books, which I layered into the tree, making them a ‘behind’ layer or an ‘in front’ layer as necessary, and then under Shape Format on Mac, or Format on PC, I ‘cropped to a shape’ for the star and the top of the tree.