Dudley Felker Randall was born in Washington D.C. on January 14, 1914 to parents Reverend Arthur George Clyde Randall and Ada Viola Randall (nee Bradley). He and his brothers Arthur Burr Randall, Sgt. James A. Randall, and Philip Randall, and sister Esther Bernice "Bunnie" LaMarr (nee Randall) were raised in a household where education was strongly valued. The family relocated to Detroit in 1920.
Between the years of 1932-1937 Randall worked at a Ford Motor Company plant in Dearborn, Michigan. Starting in 1938-1943 he served as a clerk and letter carrier for the United States Post Office in Detroit, until his deployment during World War II to the South Pacific in 1943 as a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps. On his return to the United States, Randall took up his position at the post office once more from 1946-1951, and served for a time as a chairman of the legislative committee. He also attended Wayne University (now Wayne State University) during this time, where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1949.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Randall followed in the path of his older brother and younger sister to the University of Michigan for a degree in higher education. Arthur graduated from the university in 1934 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and was also a prolific writer, while Esther graduated in 1949 with a master's degree in social work and would eventually serve as the first Executive Secretary of the Detroit Commission on Children and Youth.
Randall graduated from the University of Michigan with a master's degree in Library Science in 1951, and worked as a librarian from 1951-1954 at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, and Morgan State (now Morgan State University) from 1954-1956 in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1956, Randall returned to Detroit to work in the Wayne County Federated Library System, where he continued until his appointment as reference librarian and poet in residence at the University of Detroit from 1969-1975.
Throughout his career to this point, Randall continued writing and submitting his original material to multiple publishers. Reflected in his works are Randall as a father and husband, his travel experiences, and more predominately, his experience of racial tension in the United States. It was not until one of his more famous poems, "Ballad of Birmingham", was set to music that he decided to copyright his own work. This spearheaded the establishment of the Broadside Press in 1965, a press that was dedicated to printing black and African American authors in response to the challenges they faced in being published in the United States at the time.
Through the establishment and rise in popularity of the Broadside Press among black and African American authors between the mid-1960s and the 1970s, Randall encountered other notable authors and members of the Black Arts Movement, including but not limited to Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde, Don L. Lee (now Haki R. Madhubuti), Naomi Long Madgett, Margaret Danner, Robert Hayden, Hoyt Fuller, and Melba Joyce Boyd. The press continued to print both established and new authors, and began distributing audio cassettes and reels in addition to printed material. In the early 1970s, Randall expanded and founded the Broadside Poets Theater as well as the Broadside Poetry Workshop. After experiencing financial issues, the Broadside Press changed hands briefly in 1977, though Randall regained it in 1980. In 1981, Randall was recognized for his work, and was appointed as the poet laureate of Detroit. By 1985, the press was purchased by Hilda and Don Vest, who maintained control of it until 1995. The press combined with the Lotus Press in 2015, with the new name of the Broadside Lotus Press.
Randall was honored multiple times during his career, and well into the 1990s, with additional recognition and awards from both Wayne State University and from the University of Michigan, a Lifetime Achievement Award granted by the National Endowment of the Arts, and recognition during the twenty-fifth anniversary of the press.
While a prodigious author, Randall's more well-known personal works include poems "Dressed All in Pink","Booker T. and W.E.B.", and"Southern Road", booksPoem Counterpoem in 1966, andA Litany of Friends: New and Selected Poems in 1981, and as an editor oversaw the compilation of theThe Black Poets in 1971 andFor Malcolm: Poems on the Life and Death of Malcolm X in 1967.
Randall married Ruby Hudson in 1935, with whom he had daughter Phyllis Ada Randall in 1940. They were divorced in 1942, at which time he married Mildred Pinckney. They divorced in the early 1950s. In 1957 Randall married Vivian Spencer, with whom he remained until his passing in 2000.
More extensive information about Randall can be found in the publications Wrestling with the muse: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press by Dr. Melba Joyce Boyd, and Dudley Randall, Broadside Press, and the Black arts movement in Detroit, 1960-1995 by Julius E. Thompson.