It was while he was working as a librarian for the Wayne County Federated Library System that Randall started Broadside Press. He toiled during his lunch breaks and after work. The labor was overwhelming and provided little money. Print runs were usually 5,000 to start, and there was often demand for more.
He would eventually be forced to slow down: In 1972 he had a heart attack that left him incapacitated for weeks.
By the time Broadside Press was sold in 1977 to the Alexander Crummell Memorial Center, a church in Detroit, it was $30,000 in debt and a financial strain for Randall and his wife, Vivian. He regained ownership in the early 1980s, but in 1985 he sold the press again, this time to Hilda Vest, a poet, and her husband, Don, a businessman and activist.
Randall died of congestive heart failure on Aug. 5, 2000. He was 86.
Today, the press operates as Broadside Lotus Press, after having merged with a press founded by Naomi Long Madgett, who became Detroit’s poet laureate in 2001.
Randall published several poetry collections of his own, such as “Cities Burning” (1968), “More to Remember” (1971) and “After the Killing” (1973), and edited anthologies, such as “For Malcolm: Poems on the Life and the Death of Malcolm X” (1967) and “Black Poetry: A Supplement to Anthologies Which Exclude Black Poets” (1969). He was named Detroit’s poet laureate in 1981.
He was particularly proud of the work of other poets, whose voices he helped amplify.
As he said in “Broadside Memories,” a book of poems that he published in 1975: “My strongest motivations have been to get good black poets published, to produce beautiful books, help create and define the soul of black folk, and to know the joy of discovering new poets.”