This brilliant poem which deals with the September 15, 1963, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where four African-American girls were killed, usually is, and should be, a part of every curriculum during Black History Month.
Randall's "Ballad" painfully foreshadows today's plaintive cry that blacklivesmatter, an insistence that a segment of America has never acknowledged (and seemingly never will).
My handout first discusses how “Ballad of Birmingham” incorporates the five characteristics of a ballad (short narrative poem, question-and-answer dialogue, refrain, rhyme scheme, and internal rhyme). The following sections examine the protagonist and the antagonist of the poem, its use of irony, and its themes.
The handout, which has blanks that your students can fill in, is suitable as an in-class activity or for homework.
An Answer Key is provided on a separate sheet.
In a for-the-teacher appendix to the handout, extensive notes on the 16th-Street Baptist Church bombing are given, including the names of the four girls who died and the three KKK members convicted of and imprisoned for the monstrous act.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph. D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.