In Randall's "The Ballad of Birmingham," the obvious social conflict is racial discrimination. In the poem, there is a reference to a freedom march which is an allusion to the freedom marches led by civil rights leaders in the 1960's. The speaker's mother tells the child not to go out because the streets will be dangerous and suggests that the child instead go to the church. Ironically, the church is bombed and a mother looks for her missing child, only finding her shoe.
The poem is a reference to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. The church had been used as a meeting point for civil rights activities and a starting point for student marches. That morning, many children were in the basement of the church for prayer; in the bombing four girls were killed. A group of Ku Klux Klan members planted sticks of dynamite in the church; their actions were obviously instigated by racial hatred.