Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., pastor of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, (pictured) gave the eulogy at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham for the girls memorialized in Dudley Randall’s landmark poem “Ballad of Birmingham.” Photo credit: Delia Rae Saldivar.

Dudley Randall, Michigan’s Father of Black Poetry

Dudley Randall (1914-2000) was a natural born poet who created new pathways for Black poets to be published, raising awareness and prominence of their creative work. He founded Broadside Press in 1965 within his own home for this purpose. It later merged with Lotus Press and is now Broadside Lotus Press.

While introducing approximately 200 new voices through the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and beyond, Randall also worked as a credentialed librarian at several institutions, including the University of Detroit, where he simultaneously was the poet-in-residence. He later became the Poet Laureate of Detroit (1981), according to https://poets.org.

For more information, we recommend: https://biography.jrank.org/pages/2931/Randall-Dudley.html.

His Writing

First published as a poet at the age of 13 in the Detroit Free Press, Randall became widely respected by such Black writing luminaries as Gwendolyn Brooks and Margaret Walker Alexander. The poem that launched his adult publishing career and rocketed his literary reputation was “Ballad of Birmingham.” A critically acclaimed and timely work, it can be read here, along with descriptive notes of its literary craftsmanship: https://www.modernamericanpoetry.org/criticism. The eulogy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., associated with the true story it is about can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKxb0FuFlTA.

“During his lifetime, Randall published several poetry collections, including A Litany of Friends: New and Selected Poems (Lotus Press, 1981) and More to Remember: Poems of Four Decades (Third World Press, 1971)He also edited the anthologies The Black Poets (Bantam Books, 1985) and For Malcolm: Poems on the Life and Death of Malcolm X (Broadside Press, 1967),” according tohttps://poets.org.

Read about places connected to Gwendolyn Brooks and Margaret Walker Alexander here: Gwendolyn Brooks in Illinois and Margaret Walker Alexander in Mississippi.

The Place

The Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture at the University of Detroit Mercy, a private Catholic university, hosts writers’ events and workshops that are open to the public by prior arrangement. It also offers a Writers-In-Residence program that has been in operation for more than 20 years. According to its website, “The Center also facilitates community building and collaboration that was so central to Dudley Randall’s life and work by actively soliciting the involvement of members of Detroit’s community members in its projects, and by acting as a resource center for novice and professional writers throughout the Detroit area.” Read more at: https://liberalarts.udmercy.edu.

Notably, another writer associated with the University of Detroit Mercy is novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard, who graduated in 1950. Read about an additional place associated with Leonard here: Elmore Leonard in South Carolina.

If arrangements are made to attend an event or workshop at the Center, this can be the first stop on the Michigan Author Adventures Trail. Otherwise, travelers should start with the next stops in Battle Creek.

Patricia Smart