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The Theme of Racial Inequality for African Americans in Dudley Randall's ‘Ballad of Birmingham’ and Langston Hughes's ‘A Dream Deferred’

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Dudley Randall and Langston Hughes both lived through racial inequality for African Americans during the Postmodernism era and portrayed it in their poems. Dudley Randall wrote ‘Ballad of Birmingham’ and Langston Hughes wrote ‘A Dream Deferred’. They both use imagery to depict the main message of their poems.

Dudley Randall experienced a lot while growing up. His life was filled with a lot of education. According to Michael Loudon, Dudley was born in 1914 and spent his childhood in Washington, D.C., where he was born, and East St. Louis. Dudley’s father made sure that Dudley was aware of the political events going on at the time. Loudon also says that Dudley started writing poetry at the age of thirteen. By the age of sixteen, his family moved to Detroit and Dudley graduated. Upon his graduation, Dudley learned a lot about the works of the major writers during the Harlem Renaissance. Living in Detroit, Dudley worked at a Ford Motor Company, according to Loudon. Dudley met Robert Hayes in 1933, because he also lived in Detroit. They both discussed about other authors works and shared their works with each other. The exchange of poetry and discussions of ideas sharpened Dudley’s skills and strengthened their friendship which lasted many years. In 1938, Dudley worked as a letter carrier for the US Post Office. Dudley also served in the military as a member of the signal corps of the South Pacific during World War II, from 1942 to 1946. When Dudley returned from war, he went to Wayne State University where he would graduate in 1949. He still worked for the Post Office and while working there he completed work for a master’s degree in library science from the University of Michigan in 1951 according to Loudon. With a degree on his belt, Dudley began his career as a librarian at the University in Jefferson City, Missouri until 1954. He moved around a lot as different level of librarians and different libraries.

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Dudley published a poem named ‘Ballad of Birmingham’ in 1965. His work was dedicated and meant to express the events that occurred on September 15, 1963 in Birmingham. According to Linda Carter, that day in September was a day of devastation because church service had just ended and dynamite that was placed under a stairwell in the church was blown up. Four little girls passed away. This all occurred during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s all due to racism. Dudley’s poem is a ballad of thirty-two lines, eight stanzas, four lines each stanza. The second and fourth line of every stanza is set to rhyme. Dudley’s poem is a conversation between a mom and a daughter. The daughter is asking the mother if she could go to a parade about the Civil Rights movement, but the mother rejects her and tells her to attend church. She tells her daughter no because she fears that there might be danger at the parade. In the end, the Church that the little girl attended was blown up and she died. This shows irony in the poem, but Dudley used imagery throughout the poem to emphasize the message.

Another poet that went through similar inequality events was Langston Hughes. Langston Hughes grew up during the Harlem Renaissance period but published some of his work in the Postmodernism era. Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. James Nathaniel and Carrie Mercer Langston Hughes were his parents, and they both separated when Hughes was young according to Edward Waldron. Hughes had lived in different cities, according to Waldron. Langston began his poetry career in grammar school in Lincoln, Illinois. Waldron says that a strong source of material that helped him was the exposure to American blues and jazz players in Paris nightclubs. The Harlem Renaissance period was also known as the Harlem Awakening and the New Negro Renaissance. This time period was from 1919 to 1929. Waldron says that the name of the time period does not matter but that the years of that period were filled with rich productivity within the black community and Hughes was an important role in that time period.

Langston Hughes’s ‘Dream Deferred’ got published in 1951. It is only a piece of an entire montage of poems. Arthur Davis says that Langston Hughes expresses the discontent, aspirations, and frustrations of the New York ghetto. He also says that Hughes speaks for all the negroes in the ghetto by expressing all their feelings in his poem.

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The Theme of Racial Inequality for African Americans in Dudley Randall’s ‘Ballad of Birmingham’ and Langston Hughes’s ‘A Dream Deferred’. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from
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