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What Writers Can Learn from the Great Depression

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Strange Fruit & the Great Depression


Kayne West sampled Nina Simone singing “Strange Fruit” in his most recent album, reviving one of the most powerful protest songs ever written in a song called “Blood on the Leaves.” 

New York City English teacher, poet and activist Abel Meeropol wrote the poem “Strange Fruit” during the Great Depression. The great Billie Holiday ended up recording the song, sharing the dark story about lynchings in America. NPR has more about this remarkable song:

In the late 1930s, Pellison says, Meeropol “was very disturbed at the continuation of racism in America, and seeing a photograph of a lynching sort of put him over the edge.” Meeropol once said the photograph “haunted” him “for days.” So he wrote a poem about it, which was then printed in a teachers union publication. An amateur composer, Meeropol also set his words to music. He played it for a New York club owner — who ultimately gave it to Billie Holiday. When Holiday decided to sing “Strange Fruit,” the song reached millions of people.

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