Ballad of Birmingham by Poet Dudley Randall

1 Posted by - October 28, 2020 - Black History, History, LATEST POSTS

Dudley Randall published his first poem in the Detroit Free Press when he was thirteen. Randall was born on January 14, 1914, in Washington, D.C., the son of Arthur George Clyde (a Congregational Minister) and Ada Viola (Bradley) Randall (a teacher).

After earning degrees in English and library science, Randall worked as a librarian until his 1974 retirement. He established Broadside Press in 1965, which became an important publisher of African-American poets and political writers.


Ballad of Birmingham

By Dudley Randall

(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?”

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