Monday, February 4, 2013

Strange Fruit

February is the month of love, the shortest month of the year and also Black History month

Oddly, or unfortunately - depends on how you choose to see it - February was the only time of the year that I, as a student, learned historical information involving African-Americans that went beyond slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights movement...at least on a larger scale than what I learned from my own research.

It is often said that the importance of learning about history is so we're not doomed to repeat it. This brings the song "Strange Fruit" to mind. Not sure how many of you are familiar with the song, but its lyrics describe lynching in a poetic and disturbing way due to much of the realism infused in the imagery invoked by the words. Sung by the legendary Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit" was an ode to an America of her present - now, I pray, America past - a time where lynchings and other acts of violence were utilized to thrust a crushing blow to those, primarily black men and women, seeking justice beyond second class citizenship, to take hold of the promise shouted out by the Declaration of Independence: That all men are created equal.

Learning beyond the basic curriculum was and is important, even today. Countless strides have been made and February is a month where many improvements and steps-forward are recognized, giving America a more inclusive tone.

Is this the first you've heard of "Strange Fruit?" If so, you can click here to see a performance of the song.

32 comments:

  1. I've never heard of Strange Fruit, but I do hope that education has gotten a little better at weaving the history of civil rights in our country into the curriculum as a whole.

    Doubtless, my principal will be sharing random black history facts over the announcements all this month. It kind of makes me roll my eyes, to approach teaching in this "special month" approach when we should be teaching it as part of the overall curriculum.

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    1. It's interesting you say that, Dianne. I've heard that mentioned on many occasions by those who argue that more ethnic history, as a whole, should be woven into historical curriculum as well.

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  2. I haven't heard of this song. Will have to check it out. I really like how you focused on the strides of American History and how Black History has intertwined with that. So very important. Great voice and focus, here.

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    1. It's a very haunting song. Billie Holliday has a unique voice as well. Touched something deep within the first time I heard it.

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  3. I do know this song--but then I'm old. LOL.

    I've always been suspect about the history taught in schools. So often it's homogenized. I know this because in college, I had a history teacher teaching the Vietnam war. I lived through it and this teacher was grossly misinforming the students about what was going on. I had friends over there. She did them and their sacrifice a disservice.

    This is why I prefer to read personal diaries of the era. Harder to read, but gritty and unvarnished.

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    1. And more to the truth than most would care to admit to or face head on.

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  4. I've never heard of this song! I love meaningful lyrics, so I'm definitely going to go look it up.

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    1. The lyrics are meaningful, and sad. But something can be learned...that the lyrics of that song don't have to be repeated action.

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  5. History books taught in school are brief and not always accurate. It's good to explore beyond them to learn more.

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  6. Thanks for sharing. I went and listened. What a horrifying haunting song and sung with such emotion, as if she were standing right there in the aftermath - then again, maybe she did. And I agree with Dianne that history should be a lot more inclusive.

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    1. With those lyrics and Billie's voice, the song gives such a chill.

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  7. Yes, thanks for sharing! I am definitely going to check this out! =)

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    1. Give it a listen. Not one to easily ignore, especially once you know the lyrics of the song.

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  8. It is so important that our new generations learn, and I fear it may not be taught in school as well as it should be. I certainly didn't learn much about equality and the civil rights movement at all in school, and that's heartbreaking. I'm off to listen to the song!

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    1. I'm not sure of what it taught nowadays, although it would appear that some bits of history are slowly being righted.

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  9. Like Maria said, I do know the song, but then I'm old, LOL.

    History is written by the victors...usually incorrectly.

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  10. Hi Angela,

    No, it's not a song I've heard of. Whenever we visit America we miss knowing what is going on in the rest of the world. I suspect similar things happen in the history sector.

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    1. Very true, Shelley. Kind of goes back to what Raelyn mentioned with victors and history, something that is a world-wide thing.

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  11. This is one haunting song and when I heard it sung by Ms. Holiday I wept. I was facinated to discover that it had been written by a Jewish teacher in N.J. and that this teacher and his wife adopted the Rosenberg children after their parents were executed for treason. Life always outdoes fiction for twists and turns and connections that tear at your heart.

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    1. C Lee, you are so on point. Fiction is often outdone by the spirals in life.

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  12. I went to a high school that was 70% African-American, 25% Latino, and 5% other so I learned a lot about African culture and history, a lot more than in books. I remember one English teacher who had lived through the segregation and her telling us about it first hand was so much more meaningful and emotionally gripping than reading about it in a book.

    History books in schools get a lot of the details wrong. I was born in Lithuania so I know a lot of my history. When I was in high school learning about the world wars, the school history books and the Lithuanian version of the wars controdicted each over.

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    1. It almost makes me wonder what's the deal with getting first hand accounts that get more to the heart of certain historical events versus glosses that appears to be the case with many historical text books.

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  13. Aloha Angela,

    Yeah, sorry... first time I have heard of Strange Fruit, but what a powerful song.

    My wife works in diversity/HR, so I shall pass this link onto her, too.

    Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Aloha to you Mark :-)

      It's one of those songs that just makes you sit and seriously think.

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  14. This is the first time I've heard of this song. Wow. So powerful. There can be no doubt where the Blues come from, can there?

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  15. I've never heard this song before, although I'm familiar with Billie Holiday's music. What a beautiful performance. I agree with the other comments about the history taught at schools. And although I'm referring to my own childhood, which was spent in then-communist Poland, the problem was exactly the same - the history taught to us completely omitted the negative impact the Russian communism had on our country, the violence of Russians during and after the II World War, and it diminished the amount and importance of help received from the Western countries and the US.

    I make a point to teach my children that we are all equal, no matter where we come from, what color skin we were born with, what religion we practice, and what language we speak. We are all human beings, all deserving love and respect.

    Wonderful post, Angela!

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    1. Wow, Angela. It's no wonder some things just aren't known at all.

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  16. I find it both odd and unfortunate - with a heap of maddening. There shouldn't be a "special" month for anything. It's fine in college to delve deeper into a special segment but in the younger grades shouldn't it all be blended together and taught as a whole?

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    1. That would be the elephant in the room standing, waiting to be addressed :-)

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