It Seems To Me

Dudley Randall (1914 – 2000)

Booker T. and W.E.B.

By Dudley Randall
“It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
“It shows a mighty lot of cheek
To study chemistry and Greek
When Mister Charlie needs a hand
To hoe the cotton on his land,
And when Miss Ann looks for a cook,
Why stick your nose inside a book?”
“I don’t agree,” said W.E.B.,
“If I should have the drive to seek
Knowledge of chemistry or Greek,
I’ll do it. Charles and Miss can look
Another place for hand or cook.
Some men rejoice in skill of hand,
And some in cultivating land,
But there are others who maintain
The right to cultivate the brain.”
“It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
“That all you folks have missed the boat
Who shout about the right to vote,
And spend vain days and sleepless nights
In uproar over civil rights.
Just keep your mouths shut, do not grouse,
But work, and save, and buy a house.”
“I don’t agree,” said W.E.B.,
“For what can property avail
If dignity and justice fail.
Unless you help to make the laws,
They’ll steal your house with trumped-up clause.
A rope’s as tight, a fire as hot,
No matter how much cash you’ve got.
Speak soft, and try your little plan,
But as for me, I’ll be a man.”
“It seems to me,” said Booker T.—
“I don’t agree,”
Said W.E.B.

Randall Dudley is a name in poetry that you may not be familiar but from 1965 to 1977 his periodical Broadside Press, published out of Detroit, encouraged and showcased nearly every black poet that was influential in those years in North America.   Dudley was the son of a Minister, born in Washington, D. C. who moved to Detroit when he was nine. He began writing poems before he was five and published his first poem in the Detroit Free Press when he was thirteen.  He served in World War II and came back and got degrees in B. A. in English and a master’s degree in Library Science.   His poetry was published in multiple volumes over a long career, but he was more of a poet’s poet, than a main stream name.  His greater contribution to poetry was likely his thoughtful mentoring and publishing of other black authors authors work.   Poets such as Ethridge Knight, Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks, Haki R. Madhubuti and Nikki Giovanni have all praised Randall for his generous support of black artists and the impact that Broadside Press had during those years.   

Dudley wrote in different styles, but contributed to jazz poetry, sometimes gave readings accompanied by jazz music.  His poem Ballad of Birmingham was put to music by Jerry Moore and has been recorded by many artists over the years.  I have included a link to the song below.   Randall spoke fluent Russian, traveled extensively internationally and translated a host of poems from Russian to English.  Although a limited number of his poems are available on the internet, he is a name I will check out on the used section in Alibris, which is where I hunt down poetry that is out of print.  If you would like to read the poem, Ballad of Birmingham before you listen to it, you can check out the link below which will take you to a copy at the Poetry Foundation.


On Getting A Natural (For Gwendolyn Brooks)

by Dudley Randall

She didn’t know she was beautiful,
though her smiles were dawn,
her voice was bells,
and her skin deep velvet Night.

She didn’t know she was beautiful,
although her deeds,
kind, generous, unobtrusive,
gave hope to some,
and help to others,
and inspiration to us all. And
beauty is as beauty does,
they say.

Then one day there blossomed
a crown upon her head,
bushy, bouffant, real Afro-down,
Queen Nefertiti again.
And now her regal woolly crown
I know
I’m black


Published by

A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

One thought on “It Seems To Me”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s