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What is the main response to "Ballad of Birmingham"?

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stevie1 | Student | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 16, 2010 at 3:30 AM via web

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What is the main response to "Ballad of Birmingham"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 16, 2010 at 3:55 AM (Answer #1)

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This poem is a tribute to the children who were sacrificial victims of the Civil Rights Movement.  Written as a ballad, the poem has been set to music and sung prior to its 1965 publication.  The first stanza, which is a dialogue between the child and her mother, sets up the irony of situation:  While the mother fears for her child to go in the streets, she believes the child will be safe in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church:

The mother/smiled to/know that her/child/Was in the /sacred place,/ But that smile/ws the last/smile/To come upon/her face.

Following this dialogue are images reflective of the brutal destruction of life and building: "glass and brick," "the shoe my baby wore."  These images are in sharp contrast to the images of "rose petal sweet" and "white gloves" so evocative of the tragic innocence the child victims.  Dudley Randall's poem is very poignant, touching deeply the reader.

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