Dudley Randall’s Centennial Birthday
Dudley Randall, poet, publisher, editor and also a librarian at the University of Detroit (1969-1975) where he was also the poet-in-residence, was born on January 14, 1914. He worked at a foundry, Ford Motor Company and in the post office and saw military service during World War II. He earned degrees in English (1949) and Library Science (1951). Throughout his life and his many travels to such place as as the Soviet Union and Africa, he found inspiration for his poems.
His career as a publisher started as a means to protect his rights to his poem “Ballad of Birmingham”, which was written in response to the 1963 bombing of a church in which four girls were killed. It was set to music and sung by a folksinger. To protect his rights he published it on a single sheet or broadside, thus the name of his publishing company:The Broadside Press. As an independent press he gave voice to some unpublished poets and national figures such as Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, LeRoi Jones, Alice Walker and Haki Madhubuti. Gwendolyn Brooks left Harper and Row to become a Broadside poet.
In recognition for his contribution to the development of American Black literature, the Friends of Libraries USA, designated the McNichols Campus Library as the Dudley Randall Literary Landmark in 2001. The first Literary Landmark designated in Michigan has the official plaque located in the Bargman Room, the second floor of the McNichols Campus Library.
Dudley Randall died on August 5, 2000 at the age of 86. His spirit continues through the Dudley Randall Student Poetry competition and the Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture which sponsors poetry and dramatic readings and SIC, a UDM student publication of works by creative writing students.
Pat Higo, Archives and Special Collections Librarian