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Strange Fruit By Billie Holliday. Southern trees bear a strange fruit. Blood on the leaves and blood at the roots. Black body swinging in the Southern breeze.

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Strange Fruit

By Billie Holliday


Southern trees bear a strange fruit


Blood on the leaves

and blood at the roots


Strange fruit hanging from the Poplar trees


The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth


And the sudden smell of burning flesh!


Here’s a fruit

for the crows to pluck


For the sun to rot,

For a tree to drop

Here is a strange and bitter crop.



murder for supposed crime: to seize somebody believed to have committed a crime and put him or her to death immediately and without trial, usually by hanging

MSN Encarta Dictionary


On a piece of paper write “Strange Fruit by Billie Holliday.” Then, write your initial reaction to the song and slides. Try to include examples or comments from the actual song and slides.



Music can help people express a range of feelings and topics. Many early African-American songs, such as "The Drinking Gourd," were used to pass secret messages during the period of slavery. As Reconstruction passed into the Jim Crow Era, African-American music such as jazz and blues evolved. This music explored the feelings of frustration, poverty, and depression that many African-American communities experienced. This music also began advocating for social change.


Songs that promoted social activism were rare before the mid 1960s. One of the earliest of these songs, "Strange Fruit," was sung by the blues singer, Billie Holiday--she first sang it in a New York club in 1938. Though it was popular, Holiday's recording company, Columbia Records, refused to produce the song due to its controversial nature. A small record company picked it up, and it has now been commonly accepted as Holiday's signature song.


Pick two of these questions to write and answer.

  • Why were blacks lynched?
  • What reasons would people give to "justify" doing it?
  • What responses could blacks have to lynching?
  • What response did Billie Holiday choose? Why?
  • What risks was she taking by singing this song? Why?
  • What kind of message did the song have? Explain.
  • Do you think it was effective? Explain.
  • This overview and these questions were taken from the website: