Study Guide

Ballad of Birmingham Violence

By Dudley Randall

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Violence plays a major part in the "Ballad of Birmingham." The young girl in the poem wants to join in the marches downtown, but the threat of police retaliation against protestors is too much for her mother. The threat of violence lingers over the poem; ultimately, even a safe place like a church is not immune from its devastation.

Questions About Violence

  1. What images of violence does Randall use? Are these images violent on their own, or does their violence depend on the person wielding them?
  2. Is the violence in the poem a result of something specific?
  3. Who is on the receiving of the violence? Why?

Chew on This

This poem shows how all-encompassing violence can be. Once it starts, there's no hiding from its effects.

Randall shows us the instruments of violence, but leaves us to picture on our own the people behind those instruments.

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