Today is the 30th year anniversary of the death of a man only remembered by a few. But given the nature of the mounting racial tensions in the United States today it seems appropriate to pause for a moment, and listen. May all of those, unlawfully and brutally gunned down, rest with peace.
Abel Meeropool, a jewish man and teacher from the Bronx wrote “Bitter Fruit” as a poem after seeing a photograph of two lynched black man in the press. His text was published under his pen name Lewis Allan in 1936 in the Teachers Union magazine. He later composed a melody which was re-arranged when Meeropool proposed the song to Billie Holiday. He also helped write the civil rights movement anthem, The House I am In. Meeropool died today, thirty years ago on October 29, 1986.
More interpreters of the haunting song Strange fruit can be found here.
The particularly horrific 1930 incident in Marion, Indiana which inspired Meeropool’s poem can be discovered in the following video clip. Three young men were wrongly accused of raping a woman and jailed. A mob broke into the jail house , “freed” the accused and lynched two of them.
ATTENTION: The images and descriptions of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith’s deaths are graphic. James Cameron, 16 at the time was spared and testifies to the event in this video clip.