In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama experienced a grave tragedy. On September 5th, the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed and four girls lost their lives (Birmingham). In the Ballad of Birmingham, Dudley Randall portrays the tragedy of one mother who lost her daughter in the bombing. Randall was born in 1914 in Washington, D.C. He moved to Detroit, Michigan six years later. He had always been into writing poetry and had his first published poem at the age of 13. He became a part of the Black Arts Movement in the 60s. This is when he wrote a tribute to the girls who died in the bombing (Dudley). The poem is about the little girl asking her mom to go to the protest in downtown Birmingham. However, the Mother said that she could not go downtown instead she had to go to church. When she was at church it was bombed, and the little girl ended up dying (Randall line 1-32). Dudley Randall uses imagery, tone, and irony to portray the feelings of the mother because of the hate crimes. Throughout the poem, Randall uses imagery to show the different emotions of the little girl’s mother. It is used to show how the mother views the protest going on downtown. She views the protest as violent and unfit for a child. The Mother says that the dogs are fierce and wild (Randall 6).
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When she says this, she describes the dogs which help to show how the protest can be violent with the strong words. Later in the poem, Randall shows the anxiety of the Mother through the line she clawed through bits of glass and bricks (Randall 29). She is searching through the remains of the church trying to find her little girl not even caring if she hurts herself while searching. She also says the line but, baby, where are you (Randall 32). This shows the pain the mother is suffering when she is unable to find the body of her little girl. Not only does the poet use imagery to express the feelings of the mother, but also how the little girl looks before she heads to the church. He says that she is bathed rose petal sweet saying she is dressed in all white including her shoes (Randall 18). This shows the innocence of the little girl and the purity she has heading off to church. Randall’s imagery paints the horrific event that the Mother experienced during the hate crime in Birmingham that brought sorrow to her. Randall uses different tones throughout the poem to portray all the emotions he wants to show. His tone is serious throughout the whole poem. In the beginning, the tone is one of innocence because of the little girl’s dialogue.
She is asking her mother politely to attend the march with some of her friends from school, by saying Mother dear, may I go downtown/ Instead of out to play (Randall 1-2). She is innocent and does not understand all the possibilities of what may occur if she were to attend the march. But it also shows the maturity of the girl, by her asking to go downtown to attend the march it shows that even little children understand what is going on. Through the mother’s dialogue, in response to the girl talking, the tone is one of seriousness. The mother understands what could occur if her little girl were to attend the march as a young black child. Therefore, the mother’s dialect is associated with a serious tone. At the end of the poem, the tone is one of sadness and sorrow. The mother finds a shoe that her child was wearing and asks where are you?’ (Randall 32). This quote shows just how distraught the mother is at the loss of her baby. Through the mom and the little girl’s tone, Randall shows how the hate crimes really make the African American community feel. The irony is another literary device that Randall uses to convey his message of the racism and hardship that African Americans were experiencing in the 1960s.
The type of irony that he uses is situational irony. Situational irony is where what is expected to happen or to be, is actually the opposite of what occurs. In the poem, the little girl’s mother does not want her to go to the Freedom March because she is scared her little girl might die or be attacked. This is shown when the Mother says For I fear those guns will fire (Randall 14). Instead, she sends the little girl to church to participate in the children’s choir (Randall 16). The church is supposed to be a place of holiness, of goodness, of innocence. This is why the mother feels so comfortable sending her daughter to church rather than the march. The march is supposed to be a place of violence and torture, where no child should be sent. However, on September 5th the church was a place of violence and of pain and sorrow. This is situational irony because what the church is supposed to represent was actually represented in the opposite way. Through the use of imagery, tone, and irony Randall depicts what the mother experienced through the racism that occurs in the 1960s.
Imagery is used to show the violence that the mother sees and the innocence of the little girl in the poem. Randall’s tone in the poem is one of seriousness, this is to show how the problems in the 60s were experiencing terrible racial discrimination. The irony is used to show how a sacred place can actually be one of grave violence and sorrow. The three of these together make a powerful poem that shows them what has happened in the 60s is a terrible, depressing event. Randall made the poem so that the pain and sorrow of the mother would be remembered and to show what the time period was like for the African Americans. He wants the poem to be remembered so that what happened then does not happen in the future.

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The Sorrow of Hate Crimes Analysis Ballad of Birmingham. (2019, Aug 02).
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