Study Guide

Ballad of Birmingham Setting

By Dudley Randall

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Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 was a troubled place. Jim Crow laws, which legalized segregation, were still in effect in the South, and many of Birmingham's citizens organized marches and protests to demand equal rights. In fact, the town became a center of the Civil Rights Movements, attracting leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and citizens from all over the country who wanted to partake in the marches and demonstrations. These took place regularly. The poem takes place in a home, safe from the violence, as well as in the ostensible safety of a church. That the sanctity of the church was so utterly destroyed is a big part of the horror of this event. We end up finally in the rubble left after an act of terror. We're left shaking our head at what the setting should be—a peaceful refuge for an innocent little girl—and what it ultimately was: a death trap sprung by racist murderers.

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