The Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall moved me almost to the point of tears.
The speaker is an African American mother who wants to save her child from the violence and death of the protests. The poem is extremely ironic. The mother refuses her child to go to the Freedom March in Birmingham because, “For the dogs are fierce and wild, And the clubs and hoses, guns and jails Aren’t good for a little child” (6-9). The mother wants to keep her child away from the dogs which I believe can represent the cops. The cops are fierce and wild against the protesters. She does not want her child to be subjected to that. Also, the mother will not put her daughter in any danger.
Instead the mother says that the child “may go to church instead And sing in the children’s choir” (15-6). The mother believes that her daughter will be safe in the sacred church. She allows her daughter to go to a safe place in the town that is far away from the cops and the riots. The mother dresses the child in white gloves and white shoes. The author writes that the mother dresses the child in white gloves and shoes because the mother was obeying and hiding from the white community. She refused her daughter to go to the march because she was afraid of the punishment by the white community. Now she dresses her daughter in white to show that she will accept their superiority as long as her child is safe.
In the next stanza the mother believes her child is safe yet “that was the last smile To come upon her face” (24). This quote foreshadows what will happen in the next stanza. It was awful to read that the loving mother who would do anything to save her daughter is going to lose her daughter because of racial hate. The mother then “heard the explosion” and “Her eyes grew wet and wild” (25-6). Her child getting caught in the bombing of the church is so ironic because the mother sent her to church to keep her safe. The mother made sure she was away from any danger. It is also ironic how the mother’s eyes grew “wet and wild” because the dogs were “fierce and wild” and few stanzas earlier. The loss of her child caused the mother to become fierce and “wild” like the dogs. The burning brought her down on the whites’ level. She no longer will try to play it safe because she suffered the death of her beloved child.