Day 4: Montgomery, AL (Scott Zeigler)

June 15th, 2016

The first thing that should be understood about me is that I am not a blogger and tend to be very private when it comes to sharing much of anything on the Internet. During the course of this remarkable trip I find myself flinching and cringing alternately with being amazed at exceptional demonstrations of courage.

Over the years I have enjoyed watching numerous documentary series by Ken Burns. One of my favorite documentaries is his series “Jazz”. I was aware of the horrible lynchings that were conducted in the South and many times they were conducted in front of crowds which included family members of all ages. It was through Burn’s series that I learned of a song entitled “Strange Fruit” written by Abel Meeropol under his pseudonym Lewis Allan and sung by the legendary Billie Holiday in 1939. The singing and recording of this song was a courageous act. It is a haunting song where the strange fruit mentioned refers to the victim of the lynching (by hanging and/or burning) that remained on the trees to be ravaged by the sun, wind and animals.
(Go to YouTube and search Billie Holiday Strange Fruit to hear the song or see the words of the song at

Today, while visiting the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama I experienced a spine tingling cringe. As we entered the auditorium and turned around, we saw a display in the back of the room of large jars of soil labeled with a name and date of death, taken from known lynching locations to remember those victims who lost their lives in this terrible and hate filled manner. By rough counts there well over 220 jars of various hues of brown and black. To me, these hues represent the many different skin tones possessed by these individuals. These jars are a small portion of the 4,075 known lynchings. (I was not aware of this vast number.) Researchers are sure that more incidents exist where the details are unknown. I personally feel a wave of deep grief and gloom as I ponder the waste of life and imagine the sorrow and helpless frustration of family members. As Miss Holiday ended her first performance with this song and did no encore, I will end with the final words of the song to haunt and remind us of the atrocities of lynching, “here is a strange and bitter crop.”

Allan, Lewis; “Strange Fruit”, World Copyright (excluding USA) Edward B Marks Music Company, US copyright © 1939 (renewed) by Music Sales Corporation (ASCAP), All rights reserved

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply




Speak your mind