Alice Randall was born in Detroit, Michigan, in an enclave of Motown populated almost exclusively with refugees from Alabama. She grew up in Washington, D.C., and then attended Harvard University, from which she graduated in 1981 with an honors degree in English and American literature. In 1983 she moved to Nashville to become a country songwriter. The only African-American woman in history to write a number-one country song, she has had over twenty songs recorded, including two top ten records and a top forty. Her work includes the only known recorded country songs to explore the subject of lynching ("The Ballad of Sally Ann"), mention Aretha Franklin in the same line as Patsy Cline ("XXX's and OOO's: An American Girl"), and give tribute to both the slave dead and the Confederate dead ("I'll Cry for Yours, Will You Cry for Mine?"). Ms. Randall is also a produced screenwriter (a movie of the week for CBS) and has worked on adaptations of Their Eyes Were Watching God, Parting the Waters, and Brer Rabbit.
The mother of Caroline Randall Williams (who is the great-granddaughter of the Harlem Renaissance poet Arna Bontemps) and the wife of attorney David Ewing (a ninth-generation resident of Nashville and a great-great-grandson of Prince Albert Ewing, the first African American to practice law in Tennessee), Alice Randall Ewing lives deeply down south. Early in their courtship, Alice and David took Caroline on her first trip to Atlanta, a city that has long been important in Alices family because it is where her father, George, was briefly enrolled at Morris Brown, one of the nation's oldest black colleges.
The entire family is involved in documenting and preserving the history of people of color in the American South, with particular interest in the history of enslaved women and enslaved children and in the formerly enslaved who went on to striking academic achievement or whose children did. They have lectured, researched, consulted, and written about these topics, and have served on the boards of a variety of museums, historic houses, and institutions concerned with preserving and documenting the lives of enslaved people and their descendants, including Belle Meade Plantation, Carnton, the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson's home), Traveler's Rest, the Metro Historic Commission (of Nashville), the African-American Historical and Genealogical Association, the Family Cemetery Project, the Andrew Jackson's Slave Descendent Project, and Fisk University.