Tag Archives: Strange Fruit

The poison tree

A woman wandered into the store yesterday and struck up a conversation, during the course of which it was established that (a) she was a Billie Holliday fan, and yet (b) had never heard of “Strange Fruit,” arguably Hollliday’s most famous performance.  Through the magic of iPod, this gap was immediately filled.

It’s wild to think that when Holliday recorded the song in 1939, she herself could have been lynched for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’d like to compare the arguments used to delay the passage of anti-lynching laws with the arguments against hate-crime laws. I expect the comparison would be instructive.

Okay, all you Confederate nostalgists — sing along:

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.

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