TWO SONGS ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF RACISM - "STRANGE FRUIT" & "THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS"

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Billie Holiday - Strange fruit

Uploaded by Berrylibre18 on Sep 17, 2008

Billie sings with her heart.

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Leadbelly - "Scottsboro boys"

Uploaded by bluesrecluse on Feb 17, 2010

Vinyl Recording Of Leadbelly's "Scottsboro Boys"

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This post focuses on two songs about the consequences of racism -"Strange Fruit" and "The Scottsboro Boys".

The content of this post is provided for its historical, sociological, and aesthetic values.

My thanks to the performers, composers, transcribers, historians, and video uploaders.

Without any further introductory comments, here is information and lyrics about those two featured songs:

Song #1: Strange Fruit
(Abel Meeropol)

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

-snip-
Lyrics posted in the video embedded above.

Click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Fruit for more information about this song.

Here's an excerpt from that page:

"Strange Fruit" is a song performed most famously by Billie Holiday, who released her first recording of it in 1939, the year she first sang it. Written by the teacher Abel Meeropol as a poem, it exposed American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans. Such lynchings had occurred chiefly in the South but also in all other regions of the United States. The writer, Abel, set it to music and with his wife and the singer Laura Duncan, performed it as a protest song in New York venues, including Madison Square Garden.

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Song #2: "Scottsboro boys"
(Leadbelly)
Lyrics:
From http://lyrics.wikia.com/Lead_Belly:The_Scottsboro_Boys

"This is an attempt at translation. This song is performed by Lead Belly and appears on the album The Library Of Congress Recordings: Leadbelly - Let It Shine On Me, Vol. 3 (1991).

Text in italics is particularly unclear. The refrain is often not identical each time it's repeated".

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Tell ya what it all about

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Tell ya what it all about

I'm gonna talk to Joe Louis
And it all angered me
Don't even try to think about it
Alabama ree

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Tell ya all about

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Tell ya all about

I'm gonna tell all the colored people
Even the old n****r here
Don't ya ever go to Alabama
And try to live

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Gon' tell ya all about

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Tell ya all about

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Tell ya all about

I'm gonna tell all the colored people
Livin' in Harlem swing
Don't ya ever go to Alabama
Just try to sing

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Gon' tell ya all about

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Tell it all about

I'm gonna tell all the colored people
Livin' in Harlem swing
Don't ya ever go to Alabama
Just try to sing

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Tell what it's all about

Go to Alabama and ya better watch out
The landlord'll get ya, gonna jump and shout
Scottsboro Scottsboro Scottsboro boys
Tell what it's all about

-snip-

[Note that the "n word" was fully written in this transcription]

-snip-

Click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottsboro_Boys for information about the Scottsboro Boys.

Here's an excerpt from that page:

The Scottsboro Boys were nine black teenage boys accused of rape in Alabama in 1931. The landmark set of legal cases from this incident dealt with racism and the right to a fair trial. The case includes a frameup, all-white jury, rushed trials, an attempted lynching, angry mob, and miscarriage of justice...

The Scottsboro Boys, as they became known, at the time were defended by many in the North and attacked by many in the South. The case is now widely considered a miscarriage of justice that led to the end of all-white juries in the South. The case has inspired and has been examined in literature, music, theatre, film and television

Also, click http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/scottsboro/SB_acct.html for information about the Scottsboro Boys. Here's an excerpt fron that page:

No crime in American history-- let alone a crime that never occurred-- produced as many trials, convictions, reversals, and retrials as did an alleged gang rape of two white girls by nine black teenagers on a Southern Railroad freight run on March 25, 1931. Over the course of the two decades that followed, the struggle for justice of the "Scottsboro Boys," as the black teens were called, made celebrities out of anonymities, launched and ended careers, wasted lives, produced heroes, opened southern juries to blacks, exacerbated sectional strife, and divided America's political left.

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Editorial Comment:
I was motivated to publish this post because of this online discussion that I participated in: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/03/01/jeremy-lin-espn-says-has....

While that discussion did not focus on lynching, false allegations & incarceration, and other consequences of racism, it got me thinking about how "even" seemingly casual usages of pejoratives contribute to a climate that results in such horrific consequences.
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