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“Strange Fruit” Tells Story of Iconic Civil Rights Song

Gary Golio's new children's book examines the power of music to spur change

"Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song"
"Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song"

Gary Golio’s newest book, Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song (Millwood Press), tells a story of personal bravery, and how a song raising awareness of a horrifying subject—lynching—became an example of how music and art can affect social change.

Written by Bronx schoolteacher and activist Abel Meeropol, its performance advocated by Barney Josephson, owner of New York City’s first integrated club, and courageously first sung by Holiday at Barney’s in 1939, “Strange Fruit” left patrons stunned, inspired, and sometimes angered.

Holiday was insulted and harassed for performing it in her shows, but “Strange Fruit” ultimately helped make her career and was a cornerstone of the U.S. civil-rights movement of the 1960s. Radio stations wouldn’t play it, yet “Strange Fruit” sold millions of copies and was named “Best Song of the Century” by Time magazine in 1999.

With illustrations by Charlotte Riley-Webb, Golio narrates a story important for both children and adults.

For more information, visit the official website of Gary Golio.

Originally Published