“Ballad of Birmingham”

Name: _________________________________________________ Date:_________________
“Ballad of Birmingham”
During the 1960’s in America, the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. Throughout the South
especially, the civil rights demonstrators were clashing with government officials and racist citizens. The
“Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall is about a church bombing in Alabama in 1963 that killed
four girls who were getting ready in the church basement.
Directions: Answer the following questions in complete sentences were applicable.
What characterizes this poem as a ballad?
2. Reread the second stanza of this poem. Identify the specific language being used that describes
the atmosphere of Civil Rights demonstrations.
In stanza three, how does the child make it known that she grasps the ideals that inspire the Civil
Rights movement?
4. Randall uses the adjective “white” in lines 17 -20. “White” acts as a symbol associated with race
relations during the Civil Right movement. What might Randall be trying to say in this stanza?
5. What is the mother’s fear in stanza seven and what does it cause her to do?
6. After reading the last stanza, what was really the most dangerous threat to the little girl in the
Ballad of Birmingham (On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)
by Dudley Randall
"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 that 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?"