Strange Fruit: Anniversary of a Lynching by Radio Diaries
Eighty years ago, two young African-American men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, were lynched in the town center of Marion, Ind. The night before, on Aug. 6, 1930, they had been arrested and charged with the armed robbery and murder of a white factory worker, Claude Deeter, and the rape of his companion, Mary Ball.
That evening, local police were unable to stop a mob of thousands from breaking into the jail with sledgehammers and crowbars to pull the young men out of their cells and lynch them.
News of the lynching spread across the world. Local photographer Lawrence Beitler took what would become the most iconic photograph of lynching in America. The photograph shows two bodies hanging from a tree surrounded by a crowd of ordinary citizens, including women and children. Thousands of copies were made and sold. The photograph helped inspire the poem and song "Strange Fruit" written by Abel Meeropol — and performed around the world by Billie Holiday.
Today on West Texas Talk, on the first day of Black History Month, we listen to a piece from Radio Diaries about this notorious act of violence and the spectatorship of that violence.
A word of warning: this piece contains depictions of violence some listeners may find disturbing.