Ballad of Birmingham


On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963

“Mother dear, may I go downtown
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?”

“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren’t good for a little child.”

“But, mother, I won’t be alone.
Other children will go with me,
And march the streets of Birmingham
To make our country free.”

“No baby, no, you may not go
For I fear those guns will fire.
But you may go to church instead
And sing in the children’s choir.”

She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet.

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

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

She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
Then lifted out a shoe.
“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?”

~ Dudley Randall (1914 – 2000)

Previous Next

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. •—Sarah—•
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 21:24:13

    First comment, yay!

    I think this poem is about a boy who wants to go out and play, but his mother doesn’t want him too because it’s a dangerous town.

  2. •—Sarah—•
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 21:58:18

    Good night everyone!

  3. KellyP
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 12:24:40

    I think that this poem is related to the book The Watsons Go To Birmingham because the book takes place in Birmingham and so does the poem and its the same date 1963.

  4. Alex D.
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 16:06:47

    ms m how do i print out this weeks spelling packet

  5. Alex D.
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 16:13:11

    and what are this weeks spelling words

  6. Ms. McClure
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 16:26:18

    Alex, click on Projects, then on Language Arts, then on Spelling, then on Week 6, and then on your group–1 or 3. Your words for the test are the first ten words on your group’s word sort.

  7. Emily
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 18:18:57

    I agree with you Kelly that this poem is related to The Watsons Go To Birmingham, because I accidently read ahead in the book in class today, and so that’s why I think this poem is related to the book.

  8. Cami=)
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 16:11:18

    I think the poem is talking about how a little girl wants to march for freedom but the mother doesn’t want her to because violence may occur. And i think the girl wants to march because she wants civil rights.And i also agree with kelly that this poem might be related to Watsons go to Birmingham.

  9. Emily
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 17:30:40

    Camille what do you see that makes you say that the child is a little girl in this poem, instead of a boy?

  10. Emily
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 18:35:14

    The shoe part in this poem reminds me of Kenny, when he pulls a shoe from some piled up rocks from the church that fell. Kenny, the boy from The Wtason’s Go To Birmingham.

  11. Emily
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 18:35:45

    Watson’s, sorry. 🙁

  12. Jose
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 08:47:00

    This poem is about a little boy who wants to go out side but his mother tells him that you cant because out there Birmingham is a dangerous the dogs are feirce one thing that was an example.But,then at the end the mother hears an explosion I think that the boy died because if there’s a loud explosion the boy should have died.

  13. Jose
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 08:48:12

    This is a very sad poem

  14. Cole
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 09:00:23

    This is a sad poem there was an explosion and the baby got blown up. );

  15. Rachel
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 13:22:53

    It is a very sad poem.8(

  16. Faith
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 17:10:32

    I also think that the this poemis sad because the child listens to her to go to church and the church gets blown up so I think is very hard for a mother to go through life thinkind about her child that is dead.:( I feel like that the child in this story is a girl because of how it describes the rose petals and the bathtub.

  17. Claire
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 18:10:28

    I remember this! Its So sad):
    Hi Ms. McClure(:
    How are you????

    -Claire Wood(:

  18. Claire
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 18:11:04


  19. Ms. McClure
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 18:14:58

    Claire, it is wonderful to hear from you! I am doing well. How are you? I hope that you love Kenilworth. It is fun to see you re-reading some of the poetry from last year.

  20. Claire
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 18:17:21

    Im Doing wonderful!(: I have been enjoying Kenilworth, but I still wish I was there with you!

  21. Claire
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 18:22:26

    One more question and I will leave you alone(: Is the chat room open by chance?

  22. Cassidy
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 18:34:13

    I think this poem is very sad because all that, that mom had left of her son was his shoe because of where it says “She clawed through bits of glass and brick, Then lifted out a shoe. “O, here’s the shoe my baby wore, But, baby, where are you?”

  23. Ms. McClure
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 19:41:44

    Claire, the chat room is open for last year’s students. Send me an email, and I will set you up with an account. A few of the other students from last year have accounts, but you will want to get a group together to test things out in the chat room.

    I am delighted to hear that you are doing wonderfully well and enjoying Kenilworth. I do miss you, though.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.