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BIO. Dudley Randall was born on January 14, 1914 in Washington D.C., but moved to Detroit when he was six. He was the son of Arthur George Clyde and Ada Viola Randall. He married Ruby Hudson in 1935 didn’t work out. Married Mildred Pinckney in 1942 didn’t last either.

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  • Dudley Randall was born on January 14, 1914 in Washington D.C., but moved to Detroit when he was six.
  • He was the son of Arthur George Clyde and Ada Viola Randall.
  • He married Ruby Hudson in 1935 didn’t work out.
  • Married Mildred Pinckney in 1942 didn’t last either.
  • In 1957, he then married Vivian Spencer.
early life and work
Early Life and Work
  • He developed an interest in poetry while in school.
  • When he was thirteen he published his first poem that appeared in the Detroit Free Press.
  • From 1932 to 1937 he worked in the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan.
  • He served in the military during World War II.
  • He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1949 at Wayne State University in Detroit.
  • Randall then completed his Master’s degree in Library Science at the University of Michigan in 1951.
  • In 1965 he started his own publishing company called Broadside Press that published many African American writers. Melvin Tolson, Sonia Sanchez, AudreLorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Etheridge Knight, Margaret Walker, and others.
  • He died on August 5, 2000 in Southfield, Michigan.

In 1963, Birmingham Alabama, was where they had a lot of marches protesting the racial segregation of schools and other public facilities. They intended to be peaceful protest but would often get violent. This poem is based on historical event that occurred on the morning on September 15, 1963 where a bomb exploded during Sunday school at 16th Street Baptist Church. Four children were killed and 22 were injured.

  • This poem is a ballad
  • A ballad is a simple narrative verse which tells a story
  • It is sometimes put into music to be sung like for this one it was sung by Jerry Moore in 1968.
  • The poem is written in iambic tetrameter
  • Sounds very nursery rhyme like.
  • It has 8 stanzas
  • Every stanza is a quatrain.
  • Rhyme scheme is ABCB.
  • Enjambment in lines 1, 3, 11, 15, 20, and 22.

Stanzas 1-4

Stanzas 5-8

  • The first stanza is about a child asking her mother if she can go to a Freedom March in Birmingham.
  • The second stanza shows the mother’s concern by the usage of repetition in the first line. The poem uses imagery to describe how violent the freedom marches would get and that its not safe for a child.
  • The daughter mentions that other children will go with her and repeats line 3 to show that she really wants to go and help fight segregation.
  • But the mother still believes that its not safe because she fears the police may fire. She then mentions that she should go to church instead because she believes is safer.
  • Stanza 5 describes the mother getting her daughter ready for church.
  • Stanza 6 shows the mother’s relief that she knows her child is in a safer place.
  • Stanza 7 the mothers reaction changes to teary and worry when she hears the explosion of the bomb.
  • Stanza 8 shows how desperate the mother is to find her daughter as she goes through the bits of glass and brick but only finds her white shoe but not her child.


  • In lines 5 and 13 it uses repetition to show the concern of mother about her daughter’s safety.
  • Lines 3 and 11 the daughter repeats herself to show how eager she is about going to the Freedom March to try and convince her mom to let her go.
  • In line 17 the author compares the child’s hair to night to emphasize how dark her hair is.
  • Line 18 Randall uses another metaphor where he compares the sweet smell to roses after she took a bath.
  • Lines 6 and 7 uses imagery to describe how marches would get. Although they were intended to be peaceful they would frequently get violent.
  • Lines 19 and 20 give a description on how the mother dressed her with white gloves and white shoes.
  • Stanza 7 shows the reaction of the mother when she heard the explosion and how her eyes got teary, and her running through the streets calling for her daughter.
diction tone

Stanzas 1-4

“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.”

  • The words highlighted in green show the mothers concern for her daughter.
  • The words highlighted in red give a violent tone on how freedom marches got back in the 60’s.
  • The words highlighted in blue show a change in tone to a more good feeling when the mother tells her daughter to go to church instead of the march.
diction tone1

Stanzas 5-8

She has combedand 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, (church)

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 herchild.

She clawedthrough bits of glass and brick,

Then lifted out a shoe.

“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore,

But, baby, where are you?

  • Again shows a calm and positive tone when the mother gets her daughter ready for church. (highlighted in blue)
  • The yellowhighlighted words show the change in tone of the mother fearing that something happened to her daughter .
  • Irony plays a huge part in this poem. The whole poem is irony because the daughter wants to go and attend a freedom march. The mother feels that they are too dangerous for her and believes that she should go to church instead because she believes is a safer place as it says in stanza 6 “The mother smiled to know her child was in the sacred place,”. What she thought was the safest place ended up being the most dangerous place and took the life of her daughter.
  • 1. Why is the poem ironic?
  • 2. How many enjambments does the poem have?
  • 3.Why does the author use repetition in lines 5 and 13.
  • 4. What kind of image does stanza 2 give?
  • 5. How many victims died in the bombing?
  • 6. What year was the author born?
  • 7. What meter is the poem written in?
  • 8. How many stanzas does it have?
  • 9.When did the historical event happen?
  • 10. In line 17 what is the poem comparing?