In "Ballad of Birmingham," does the reader know that the church has been bombed?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Let us remember that the poem has an epigraph under its title that reads "On the bombing of a church in Alabama, 1963." This clearly tells the reader of the event that prompted this brilliant and poignantly moving poem to be written. In addition, it is clear from the poem itself that the church to which the mother let her child go to instead of the freedom marches was bombed. Consider the following stanza and how it conveys the disaster that occurred in the church:

For when she heard the explosion, 
Her eyes grew wet and wild. 
She raced through the streets of Birmingham 
Calling for her child.

The mother let her child go to the church, and the description of the mother, with her "wet and wild" eyes clearly points towards what has happened at the church, as does the final stanza's heart-wrenching description of her discovery of her child's shoe, but the absence of her child. This poem is based on a true historical event, and the epigraph combined with the description of what happens in the poem leaves the reader in no doubt that the church was bombed.

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