Monday, February 1, 2016

Capturing real African American History through poem, music and photography

Abel Meeropol (February 1903 – October1986) was an American writer, teacher and song-writer, whose works were published under his pseudonym Lewis Allan. His best-known song is "Strange Fruit" (1937) adapted from his poem Bitter Fruit, especially as recorded by Billie Holiday.  This work was inspired by his outrage upon viewing the photograph showing the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930.

Billie Holiday went through a number of obstacles after receiving the poem now lyrics and having had them placed to music, to record the song.  From distributors saying no to carrying the music, to the artist's label refusing to release the music, Holiday went out of her way to release the work, and it eventually sold well over one million copies.  It was an anthem of the African American outrage towards lynching, as much as simply the horror and outrage by many towards the harsh racism prior to the era of Civil Rights, and beyond.

Originally the photo of the lynching was sold to souvenir seekers, and those who approved of such practices.  But upon seeing the photo, the author used the power of the image to turn the racist message upside down.  The poem and song powerfully tell the viewer of the image, exactly what they were seeing.

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