The Story: Abel Meeropol, a white, Jewish high school teacher from the Bronx and a member of the communist party, wrote "Strange Fruit" a poem as a protest against lynchings in 1937. Meeropol set it to music and with his wife, performed it as a protest song in New York venues, including Madison Square Garden.
During Billie Holiday musical introduction, Holiday would stand with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer. She said that singing this song made her fearful of retaliation but, because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing the piece making it a part of her live performances. In 1939 "Strange Fruit” sold a million copies, in time becoming Holiday's biggest-selling record.
In this painting, each hanging represents a tragic event or time of senseless acts of racially motivated violence, murders and horrible atrocities in this country. The four little girls killed in the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair; the Mississippi, brutal killings of Emmett Til, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (Andrew and Michael both white); the political assassinations of Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers; the mutilation of James Byrd; the disparity of justice of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, and the list goes on. The bodies being burned and tied to the base of the trees represent the brutality of ignorance, and the social injustice, that NO people should have to endure because of their skin color.