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{{Display censorship incident
 
{{Display censorship incident
 
|ongoing=no
 
|ongoing=no
|year=2012
+
|year=1939
 
|region=North America
 
|region=North America
|artist=Kara Walker
+
|artist=Billie Holiday; Censored song: "Strange Fruit"
 
|subject=Political/Economic/Social Opinion
 
|subject=Political/Economic/Social Opinion
|confronting_bodies=Newark Public Library
+
|confronting_bodies=U.S. Radio and performance spaces
|medium=Painting
+
|medium=Music
|date_of_action=December 2012-January 2013
+
|date_of_action=1939
|location=Newark, New Jersey
+
|description_of_content="Strange Fruit" is a song performed most famously by Billie Holiday, who first sang and recorded it in 1939. It first appeared as apoem in 1937 under the title “Bitter Fruit” in the union publication The New York Teacher, having been written by a New York City public school teacher, Abel Meeropol. Set in the rustic loveliness of the “gallant South”, the poem provided a description of a “black body swinging in the southern breeze” with “the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth”; the scent of magnolia is supplanted by the stench of burning flesh.  Meeropol set the poem to music. It protests American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans. “Strange Fruit” has been called the original protest song.  
|description_of_content=The 6-by-9½-foot graphite and pastel on paper is titled ''The moral arc of history ideally bends towards justice but just as soon as not curves back around toward barbarism, sadism, and unrestrained chaos'' (2010), represents black life in the South. Lynchings, the burning of a cross, Ku Klux Klan members, and sexual violence are all shown in the image.  
+
  
Walker commented: “The work is not about slavery so much as it conjures horrors of reconstruction and 20th-century Jim Crow-ism and the Tea Party. I wanted to make a point about the way these images arose for many when Barack Obama (pictured at a little lectern on the mid-left) gave his national speech on race. And the many times he invokes his or his wife’s heritage to make an ideological point about American patriotism, which in some way grants permission to the ghosts of racist terrorism to be reimagined—here with KKK hooded figures, lynched bodies and sexual violence—and these should be horrible to behold, and should feel both familiar and uncomfortable.
+
In early 1939, Billie Holiday was performing in the newly-opened nightclub Café Society in lower Manhattan. Meeropol asked Barney Josephson, the owner of the club, if Holiday would sing it. She sang it to a stunned audience that broke into applause.
|description_of_incident=An artwork by Kara Walker on loan to the Newark Public Library from Scott London, a New York-based art collector, offended some library employees, especially African-Americans, who requested its removal. The drawing was then covered with a cloth: the piece was installed Nov. 19, and hidden by Nov. 24.
+
|description_of_result=Library director Wilma Grey uncovered the drawing. “I’m going to leave it that way,” Grey said. “Several people have suggested I turn this into a teaching moment. Most librarians are very much opposed to censorship and I’m in that camp. We’ll have a staff meeting very soon. There’s so much for people to learn about Walker and her work and about intellectual freedom.” (''Art in America'', Dec 11, 2012).
+
  
Library officials then planned to create an informational handout at the library, and open a discussion about the work with employees to stir debate and spur conversation.
+
Holiday asked her label, Columbia, to record it but they declined, fearing a backlash. She went to Commodore Records; accompanied by her eight-piece Café Society band, they recorded it in a single afternoon. “Strange Fruit” would become her biggest hit and signature track.
|image=Art.jpg
+
|description_of_incident=The song was blacklisted. Performance of the song was banned in some US cities for fear of provoking civil unrest. It was blocked From U.S. Radio stations.
 +
|description_of_result=The Library of Congress began adding important American recordings to the National Recording Registry in 2002 to ensure they would not be lost or forgotten. Billie Holiday’s recording of ‘Strange Fruit’ was one of 50 recordings added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in its first year.
 +
|image=BillyHoliday.jpg
 
}}
 
}}
[https://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/news/kara-walker-newark-library Kara Walker Artwork Censored at Newark Library], by Brian Boucher. Art in America, Dec 11, 2012
+
[https://ig.ft.com/life-of-a-song/strange-fruit.html Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit — ‘the first unmuted cry against racism’], Financial Times, NOVEMBER 14, 2017
 +
 
 +
[https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2002/02/frut-f08.html "Strange Fruit": the story of a song], World Socialist Web Site, Feb 2002
  
[http://ncac.org/video/kara-walker-and-wilma-grey-on-free-expression Kara Walker and Wilma Grey on Free Expression], NCAC, Nov 20, 2013
 
  
  

Latest revision as of 08:53, 14 February 2018

This Week's Featured Case



BillyHoliday.jpg

Artist: Billie Holiday; Censored song: "Strange Fruit"

Year: 1939

Date of Action: 1939

Region: North America


Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Music

Confronting Bodies: U.S. Radio and performance spaces

Description of Artwork: "Strange Fruit" is a song performed most famously by Billie Holiday, who first sang and recorded it in 1939. It first appeared as apoem in 1937 under the title “Bitter Fruit” in the union publication The New York Teacher, having been written by a New York City public school teacher, Abel Meeropol. Set in the rustic loveliness of the “gallant South”, the poem provided a description of a “black body swinging in the southern breeze” with “the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth”; the scent of magnolia is supplanted by the stench of burning flesh. Meeropol set the poem to music. It protests American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans. “Strange Fruit” has been called the original protest song.

In early 1939, Billie Holiday was performing in the newly-opened nightclub Café Society in lower Manhattan. Meeropol asked Barney Josephson, the owner of the club, if Holiday would sing it. She sang it to a stunned audience that broke into applause.

Holiday asked her label, Columbia, to record it but they declined, fearing a backlash. She went to Commodore Records; accompanied by her eight-piece Café Society band, they recorded it in a single afternoon. “Strange Fruit” would become her biggest hit and signature track.

The Incident: The song was blacklisted. Performance of the song was banned in some US cities for fear of provoking civil unrest. It was blocked From U.S. Radio stations.

Results of Incident: The Library of Congress began adding important American recordings to the National Recording Registry in 2002 to ensure they would not be lost or forgotten. Billie Holiday’s recording of ‘Strange Fruit’ was one of 50 recordings added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in its first year.

Source:


Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit — ‘the first unmuted cry against racism’, Financial Times, NOVEMBER 14, 2017

"Strange Fruit": the story of a song, World Socialist Web Site, Feb 2002


















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