Wrestling with the Muse
And as I groped in darkness
and felt the pain of millions,
gradually, like day driving night across the continent,
I saw dawn upon them like the sun a vision.
-- Dudley Randall, from "Roses and Revolutions"
In 1963, the African American poet Dudley Randall (1914--2000)
wrote "The Ballad of Birmingham" in response to the bombing of a
church in Alabama that killed four young black girls, and "Dressed
All in Pink," about the assassination of President Kennedy. When
both were set to music by folk singer Jerry Moore in 1965, Randall
published them as broadsides. Thus was born the Broadside Press,
whose popular chapbooks opened the canon of American literature to
the works of African American writers.
Dudley Randall, one of the great success stories of American
small-press history, was also poet laureate of Detroit, a
civil-rights activist, and a force in the Black Arts Movement.
Melba Joyce Boyd was an editor at Broadside, was Randall's friend
and colleague for twenty-eight years, and became his authorized
biographer. Her book is an account of the interconnections between
urban and labor politics in Detroit and the broader struggles of
black America before and during the Civil Rights era. But also,
through Randall's poetry and sixteen years of interviews, the
narrative is a multipart dialogue between poets, Randall, the
author, and the history of American letters itself, and it affords
unique insights into the life and work of this crucial figure.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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