STRANGE FRUIT explores the history and legacy of a song unique in the annals of American music. Best-known from Billie Holiday's haunting 1939 rendition, the song "Strange Fruit" is a harrowing portrayal of the lynching of a black man in the American South.
Ticket Info: General Public: $10; OJMCHE Members: $8; Students: $5
The film tells a dramatic story of America's past by using one of the most influential protest songs ever written as its epicenter. The saga brings us face-to-face with the terror of lynching as it spotlights the courage and heroism of those who fought for racial justice when to do so was to risk ostracism and livelihood if white - and death if black. It examines the history of lynching, and the interplay of race, labor, the Left and popular culture that would give rise to the civil rights movement.
While many people assume that the song "Strange Fruit" was written by Holiday herself, it actually began as a poem by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher and union activist from the Bronx who later set it to music. Disturbed by a photograph of a lynching, the teacher wrote the stark verse and brooding melody under the pseudonym Lewis Allan in the late 1930s. Meeropol and his wife Anne are also notable because they adopted Robert and Michael Rosenberg, the orphaned children of the executed communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
The tale of "Strange Fruit" - its genesis, impact and continuing relevance - is an amazingly complex one that weaves together the lives of African Americans, immigrant Jews, anticommunist government officials, civil rights leaders, radical Leftist teachers and organizers, music publishers, record company executives and jazz musicians. In many ways, the story of the song and its writer and interpreters is as moving and oddly haunting as the song itself.