Black History: Special Delivery!!
Ballad of Birmingham was written by African-American poet Dudley Randall (1914-2000). Randall was Detroit, MI’s first African American to become Poet Laureate. Randall was born in Washington DC. The family relocated to Detroit, Michigan when he was 4 years old. Randall’s first poem was published in the Detroit Free Press when he was just 13 years old.
Randall owned and operated Broadside Press publishing company between 1965-1977. Broadside published many leading African American authors including Melvin Tolson, Sonia Sanchez, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Etheridge Knight, Margaret Walker, and others.
One of the poems penned by Randall was “Ballad of Birmingham” The poem chronicles the story of a mother who refused to allow her child to participate in a civil rights march. However, the mother did give the child permission to go to church. The powerful imagery of the poem honors the life of little girls killed in the Birmingham Church bombing. It also demonstrates the irony of how the mother believed she was choosing a safer option for her child only to have them killed at church, which in theory should have been safer than the March.
Ballad of Birmingham
(On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)