Race, Jazz, America in the 20s and 30s

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies 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 magnolias, 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.

Billie Holiday’s recording of Strange Fruit stayed in her repertoire for twenty years following its release in 1939.It’s a song written about a lynching that took place in the early 30s, though one could argue that it’s about the practice of lynchings in the American south as they were practiced for much of the first half of the twentieth century.