Strange Fruit

Billie Holiday
From The Guardian: The song Strange Fruit “carries a passionate message for all time with its vibrant opposition to those who preach racial or religious hatred and intolerance in the US…. The original source of the song is a poem called Strange Fruit, written in the 30s by the young Jewish poet and communist Abel Meeropol (who also wrote under the name of Lewis Allan, the first names given to his stillborn children).

The poem was inspired by a photograph of the lynching of two young black men in Indiana. Copies of such photographs were very popular in the American south, and the images can be easily found on the web. One particularly disturbing example shows a mother and her child hanging from a bridge. In many cases, the hanged victims are surrounded by smiling white people waving at the camera. They sometimes have their children with them. The horrible truth is that in parts of the south in the early 20th century, the hanging of black people in public was a family occasion; lynching was part of the social fabric. “I wrote Strange Fruit,” said Meeropol, “because I hate lynching, and I hate injustice, and I hate the people who perpetuate it.”

…In 1953, Meeropol and his wife Anne adopted Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s two children after their parents’ execution for treason. Meeropol’s significance to the American civil rights movement has been underplayed; it remains too controversial to give due credit to a communist. (more here)

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black body swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

This entry was posted in Historical, Listening..., music, slavery, USA. Bookmark the permalink.

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