In Dudley Randall's poignant ballad, there is a prevailing situational irony, the contradiction of an event that occurs which is contrary to the expectations of the characters. For, the mother denies her daughter the opportunity to participate in one of the freedom marches of the Civil Right Movement, believing that the young girl will be endangered where "...dogs are fierce and wild/And clubs and hoses..." are used by the police against the African-American marchers whereas, in reality, the child would have been safer on the streets than where her mother sends her.
In response to the denial to allow her to march, the daughter replies with unconscious irony in her dialogue with her mother,
“But, mother, I won’t be alone.
Other children will go with me..."
as she implies that she will march with other children in the streets. However, the reader understands this dramatic irony, this contradiction between what the girl thinks and what the reader knows to be true-- she will be sacrificed with other children in the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Another example of irony of situation occurs in the sixth stanza as the mother is happy to think that her little girl will be safe at the church rather than in the streets:
The mother smiled to know her child
Was in the sacred place,
Sadly, though, the girl is in the most deadly of locations and she becomes a sacrificial victim to racism. Ironically (situational), her preparations for going to church become her preparations for her death