The Ballad of Rudolph Reed

‘The Ballad Of Rudolph Reed’ by Gwendolyn Brooks tells the story of an African -American man and his family who move into an all white neighbourhood.  As a result he loses his life and jeopardises the safety of his family. The poem shows the will of African- Americans to create a better life for their themselves and families regardless of the sacrifices and possible consequences.

The poem is a very compelling one, it uses the traditional ballad form to tell a heroic and finally tragic story of human struggle against the  forces of discrimination and hate.  Brooks’ poem is powerful and unrelenting in its cry for social justice, and it holds only a small hope for redemption for its characters. The story is told in sixteen ballad stanzas of regular structure, broken roughly into three sections. The first five stanzas describe the players in the story and their dreams.Ruldolph Reed is a new type of folk hero, he is a man who choses human life over property values. Reed moves to a home “in a street of bitter white” and only moves to action after the rocks, “big as two fists” that are thrown at his house and hit his daughter. He then “ran like a mad thing into the night. And the words in his mouth were stinking/By the time he had hurt his first white man/He was no longer thinking.”

Read the poem here.


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