Poetry and Civil Rights Act

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Notes on “Ballad of Birmingham” 1. Plot summary: A young girl asks her mother for permission to attend a freedom march in downtown Birmingham with her friends. Her mother, fearing violence, refuses to let her go and suggests that the child go to church instead. After she leaves, the mother is relieved that the child is in a safe place; then, she hears the bomb explode and rushes out to make sure her child is ok. She goes to the site of the church, which is now a pile of broken glass and bricks, and searches through the debris. She isn’t able to find her child, but she does find her little girl’s shoe. 2. When does climax occur? when mother hears bomb explode 3. What event do we infer from the last stanza? little girl was killed in bombing 4. What city/state is the location for the poem? Birmingham, Alabama 5. What are the two actual places where action occurs? family’s home + church grounds 6. Mother caring: wants to protect child from potential violence + sends her to safest place she knows, her church knowledgeable: knows freedom march will probably end in violence w/ marchers being attacked w/ fierce dogs, guns, clubs & hoses + then put in jail. naive: thinks church safe place beyond reach of racial hatred 7. Daughter reverent: puts on best clothes to show respect for church as place of worship obedient: does what mother tells her + goes to church innocent: thinks march will be a wonderful experience which will “make our country free” Poet emphasizes her innocence in two symbolic ways: a. describes her as “rose-petal sweet” after her bath. A rose often used in lit as symbol of perfection (no flaws). Reference to smell suggests new rose since rose most fragrant when first opening petals. Child like new rose – young + not yet touched by effects of racial hatred. b. describes her as wearing white gloves + shoes. Color white often used in lit to represent innocence + purity. 8. How do we know that this poem a historical ballad? inscription -- (On the bombing of a...
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