The song Strange Fruit, and lynching in America

My near-relative Arnold linked to several versions of Strange Fruit, including one by Billie Holiday,

strange.fruitI groaned when an Austin, TX public relations firm used “Strange Fruit” as part of its name before changing it last year. The headline said that “some say” was was “racially insensitive.” I’d say so.

As Wikipedia notes, the song Strange Fruit “protested American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans.”

The Equal Justice Institute (EJI) released a report in February 2015 about lynching in the United States between 1877 to 1950.

Their research indicates that “hundreds more of African American men, women, and children were lynched during that time period than previously thought, bringing the number of victims to nearly 4,000.”

At some point, I may have linked to this 2012 story of the man behind the song. Here are the lyrics.

Annie Lennox did a cover of Strange Fruit which caused some controversy in 2014, though I was not bothered personally.

My near-relative Arnold linked to several versions, including one by Billie Holiday, with whom the song may be most associated. Listen also to Cassandra Wilson’s take.

Surely, the song The Hanging Tree, from the movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, borrows thematically from Strange Fruit.

The EJI data fueled this New York Times map of 73 Years of Lynchings from 1877 to 1950 in 12 Southern states.

From the EJI report:

Lynching was a form of terrorism used against Blacks during that time period, where mobs of Whites would hang, burn, shoot, and beat Blacks to death as a form of intimidation and control.

One of those who lost their lives was soldier William Little.

An excerpt:

“The year 1919 was a time of resurgence by the Ku Klux Klan. Seventy-six Blacks lost their lives to mob violence in southern states that year. One of them, Private William Little of Blakely, Ga., was apparently lynched precisely because he was wearing his uniform.

“The accounts of the time state that a few days after being mustered out, he took a train home and was beaten by local Whites for wearing his uniform around town.

“The mob made him remove it.

“A couple of days later, he was caught wearing it again — Little protested that he had no other clothes — and was beaten to death and left at the end of town.”

The lynching and torture of blacks in the Jim Crow South weren’t just acts of racism. “They were religious rituals.”

A Black Mississippi Judge’s Breathtaking Speech To 3 White Murderers. The murder of “a 48-year-old black man named James Craig Anderson in a parking lot in Jackson, Miss., one night in 2011. They were part of a group that beat Anderson and then killed him by running over his body with a truck, yelling “white power” as they drove off.”

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