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Ironies of “The Ballad of Birmingham”
The “Ballad of Birmingham” is written by Dudley Randall. It was written in 1963, after the church bombing in Birmingham. The poet wrote this poem as a tribute to the victims of the bombing. The theme of the poem is race and violence. This poem gives a hint about the socio-political environment during the segregation era. However, this poem was also used to make awareness about the problems faced in society. The irony of the poem is that her mother thinks the political march is not a safe place for her daughter so, she sends her to church instead. What happens next is completely opposite, her mother hears an explosive sound in the church. The explosive was planted knowingly because it was an African-American church. This hate crime took four innocent lives.
During the 1960’s the African-American community was facing a tough time. African Americans were not considered equal compared to European Americans. Everything from schools, hospitals, colleges, restaurants, cemetery, churches was segregated. So when the girl asked her mother to allow her to go to the march, It was no wonder that she was afraid to send her little girl. The poet does not give a specific age to the girl, but in the whole poem her mother refers to her as “child”. It was quite clear that she was too young for the freedom march. All the freedom marches were supervised by the police, but when the whole legal system was biased against African
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Americans, police brutality would have been an important factor in her mother’s decision.
“For I fear those guns will fire. But you may go to church instead”(14,15). That was her mother’s decision. She thought a church would be a better option, than a march with police and angry protesters. Who would have thought that a sacred place would be less safe than freedom march? She gets her daughter ready and drops her at the church, and little did she knew, that it was the last day of her daughter’s life. “For when she heard the explosive, her eyes grew wet and wild”(25-26). The church was bombed with explosives; Four innocent children lost their lives that day. The last two stanzas were quite overwhelming. The tone of the poem changed instantly from a tone of joy immediately turns to loneliness and grief; From a conversation between a mother and a daughter to an innocent girl’s death. Her mother tried to find her daughter, but all she could find was her white shoe.
In conclusion, “Ballard of Birmingham” was a poem written from a victim’s point of view. Hate crimes not only affects the family of the victims, but it affects the whole community. The poem leaves us with the understanding that the most dangerous threat to this child’s life was not the demonstrations staged by the freedom marchers, but, instead, the racism those demonstrations nonviolently opposed (Mary Ruby, 1999).Randall used conversation in this poem to make the readers understand the emotions journey people go through. A free country without racial segregation came at a cost and Randell made sure that they do not go unappreciated. Without this poem, it would have been quite difficult to understand, what a mother went through during this infamous incident.

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