Literary Analysis Of Dudley Randall's Ballad Of Birmingham

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In 1969, Dudley Randall published his poem “Ballad of Birmingham” in response to the historical event of the bombing in 1963 of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s church by white terrorists. It is a dialogue between mother and daughter during which, the daughter asks her mother for going out to join the Freedom March, and eventually, she ends up dying in an explosion of the church. The poem has become the greatest work of Randall, and it leaves the readers with a deep emotion about tragedies due to the segregation in the 1960s.
Dudley Randall was born in Washington, D.C., on January 14, 1914. His earliest recollection of composing a poem was when his mother took him to a band concert. Impressed by the big bass drums and bass horns, the four-year-old
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In each stanza, the second and fourth lines rhyme, which makes the conversation between mother and daughter sound like a rhythmic song. From the first stanza, the readers can smell the irony and metaphor of the poem. The detail that the little girl wants to go to the march for freedom contains a metaphorical meaning. As a little girl, she acts like an adult who thirsts for freedom. She lives in a time period when racial discrimination is a rough problem of American society. Randall also implies that she herself is an African girl when describing her brown hands: “And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands” (line 19). In an unjust system with racism, black people are the minority and do not have equal rights as whites do. In fact, blacks do not have freedom, but the girl insists on going out for freedom. This irony conjures up the readers’ curiosity about the following stanzas of the poem. Responding to her daughter, the mother tells the girl to go to church instead, for she fears that protests and violence will harm her daughter: “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” (lines 13-16). As an adult, the mother knows severe dangers of racial hatred outside her safe home, so she tries to protect her daughter from foreseeable risks. However, ironically, she suggests her daughter going to church, which eventually becomes the girl’s funeral anyway.…show more content…
There are different levels of tone of the two characters and the narrator. While the little girl presents a tone of innocence and joy, the mother’s tone shows an anxiety. Despite worries about her child’s safety, the mother dresses her daughter up neatly. With “white gloves” on her hands and “white shoes” on her feet (lines 19, 20), little girl is ready for her joyful day. Randall intentionally uses the word “white” to stress the purity and innocence of the girl who loses her life at the church – a sacred place. From the seventh stanza, the tone is immediately turned to grief and loneliness by the narrator. We can feel the formidable emotion in every verse of the last two stanzas. When hearing the explosion, without thinking a moment, the mother insanely races to the church, where she is transfixed among the "bits of glass and brick" (line 29), and where she can find only her daughter’s shoe. The last two lines switches back to quotations which create an unanswered question of a sorrowful mother: “Oh, here’s the shoe my baby wore/ But, baby, where are you?” This is a strong ending to an emotion-filled poem, and the use of question leaves the readers an unspeakable

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