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“Ballad of Birmingham” By Dudley Randall

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

Dudley-Randall
Dudley Randall (1914 – 2000)

 

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

By Dudley Randall (1914 – 2000)

(On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)

“Mother dear, may I go downtown
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?”
“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren’t good for a little child.”
“But, mother, I won’t be alone.
Other children will go with me,
And march the streets of Birmingham
To make our country free.”
“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For I fear those guns will fire.
But you may go to church instead
And sing in the children’s choir.”
She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet.
The mother smiled to know her child
Was in the sacred place,
But that smile was the last smile
To come upon her face.
For when she heard the explosion,
Her eyes grew wet and wild.
She raced through the streets of Birmingham
Calling for her child.
She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
Then lifted out a shoe.
“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?”

Octavia Butler Quote

Black History: Special Delivery!!

Octavia Butler (1947-2006)

Drowning people sometimes die fighting their rescuers.
-Octavia Butler

James Baldwin Quote

Black History: Special Delivery!!

A child cannot be taught by anyone that despises him.”

-James Baldwin

Harriet Wilson: 1st African American Woman To Publish A Novel In the United States

Black History: Special Delivery!!

Harriet Adams Wilson (1825-1900)

On September 5, 1859, Harriet E. Wilson, (1825-1900) published, “Our Nig” making her the first African American woman to publish a novel in the United States. Wilson was born in Milford, New Hampshire. Her father was African American and her mother was white. When her father died, her mother abandoned her; leaving her at the home of a family where she worked as an indentured servant. She would remain with the family until the 1840’s. Wilson was married in 1851 and had a son named George. After being abandoned by her husband, she left her son in the care of foster parents and left to seek work in Boston. George died at the age of 7.

 

Wilson is said to have gone by the name, “Dr. Hattie E. Wilson” and worked as clairvoyant and psychic healer. She traveled across the U.S. making speeches on the spirit world and race relations. Wilson’s novel, “Our Nig” was a fictional story about her experience as an indentured servant, as well as her experiences with racism and prejudice. Continue reading “Harriet Wilson: 1st African American Woman To Publish A Novel In the United States”

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