Week 25–Civil Rights Poetry (ballad and sonnet)

Image result for Dudley Randall

This week we are going to study a famous civil rights ballad by Dudley Randall called, “The Ballad of Birmingham.” Dudley Randall was a poet by the time he was 13 years old!!! His father was a minister and even used some of his son’s poem in his sermons.

This poem is so important because it is based on a real event. In Birmingham Alabama in 1963 a church was bombed and 4 young girls died. Here is an interview with one girls family that aired on the news a few years back.

Image result for ballad of birmingham

I am going to post all the poems we are studying this week at the top of the page, your assignment schedule will follow them below. OH! And I found a good video of Ray Bradbury, without any bad words. It is so beautiful too. I have submitted it for approval, so look for it in your work next week 🙂

Image result for ballad of birmingham

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?”
Image result for ballad of birmingham“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 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?”
 Image result for booker T and WEB

Booker T. and W.E.B.

“It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
“It shows a mighty lot of cheek
To study chemistry and Greek
When Mister Charlie needs a hand
To hoe the cotton on his land,
And when Miss Ann looks for a cook,
Why stick your nose inside a book?”
“I don’t agree,” said W.E.B.,
“If I should have the drive to seek
Knowledge of chemistry or Greek,
I’ll do it. Charles and Miss can look
Another place for hand or cook.
Some men rejoice in skill of hand,
And some in cultivating land,
But there are others who maintain
The right to cultivate the brain.”
“It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
“That all you folks have missed the boat
Who shout about the right to vote,
And spend vain days and sleepless nights
In uproar over civil rights.
Just keep your mouths shut, do not grouse,
But work, and save, and buy a house.”
“I don’t agree,” said W.E.B.,
“For what can property avail
If dignity and justice fail.
Unless you help to make the laws,
They’ll steal your house with trumped-up clause.
A rope’s as tight, a fire as hot,
No matter how much cash you’ve got.
Speak soft, and try your little plan,
But as for me, I’ll be a man.”
“It seems to me,” said Booker T.—
“I don’t agree,”
Said W.E.B.
Image result for claude mckay
Claude McKay

If We Must Die

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
Image result for claude mckay


This week I need you to finish your final draft of your Analysis of “The Laboratory” using proper MLA format. If you want me to look at your rough draft, please email it to me.

Also, please read the poetry above and complete the following assignments by Friday:

  • Watch the video at the top of this page about the history behind the Ballad.
  • “Ballad of Birmingham” Questions for Thought and Analysis (Label it assignment 19 and put it in your poetry folder)
  • Print out Claude McKay’s Sonnet “If We Must Die,” and scan it, rhyme scheme it, tell me if it is Petrarchan or Shakespearean, and point out the main simile/metaphor. (Label it assignment 20 and put it in your poetry folder)

Ballad of Birmingham Questions:

  1. Who are the two people who speak in this poem?
  2. What does the younger person ask permission to do? Why dos the older person say no?
  3. What happens that day at church?
  4. What does the older person find after clawing through glass and brick?
  5. This ballad’s emotional effect is based in part on dramatic irony, which occurs when the reader knows something that a character doesn’t know. What does the reader know that the mother in the ballad doesn’t know? Explain why the mother’s refusing to let her child join a demonstration and sending her to church instead is a powerful example of dramatic irony.
  6. Like many folk ballads this literary ballad is written in four-line stanzas with end rhymes. which lines rhyme in every stanza of this ballad?
  7. Read the ballad aloud, paying special attention to its rhythm and end rhyme. How would you describe the sound of the ballad?

Poetry Folder:

  • Activity 1–“Dust of Snow” and “Lost”
  • Activity 2–Analysis of Art Picture
  • Activity 3–“What Skills Help You Enjoy poetry” chapter and “Your Turn”
  • Activity 4–Analysis of “My Father’s Song” and “First Lesson”
  • Activity 5–Analysis of “A Blessing”
  • Activity 6–Analysis of “Woman Work” and “Daily”
  • Activity 7–Analysis of Haiku
  • Activity 8–Analysis of “Once By the Pacific” by Robert Frost
  • Activity 9–Scanning “Stopping by Woods…”
  • Activity 10–Scanning “When I Consider…”
  • Activity 11–Analysis of “Stopping by Woods…” and “When I Consider”
  • Activity 12-Edgar Allan Poe “The Bells”
  • Activity 13- “Base Stealer” and “American Hero”
  • Activity 14-Metaphor and Simile Worksheet
  • Activity 15-Analysis of “Tiburon”
  • Activity 16-Analysis of “Hope” is a Thing With Feathers
  • Activity 17-Analysis of “Fog” and “Fire and Ice”
  • Activity 18-Analysis of “The Seven Ages of Man”
  • Activity 19-Analysis of “The Ballad of Birmingham”
  • Activity 20-Scan and Analyze “If We Must Die”
  • Activity 21-Analysis of “The Gift” (*To be assigned next week)
  • Activity 22-Analysis of “Legal Alien” (*To be assigned next week)

This folder will be due March 24




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