Friday, August 6, 2010

A Lynching 91 Years Ago, August 7, 1930 in Marion, Indiana

The photograph below was cited by the songwriter as the inspiration for the song: "Strange Fruit" which began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish high-school teacher from the Bronx, about the lynching of the two black men.

The song, "Strange Fruit" has been covered by Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley and others.

Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were two African-American men who were lynched on August 7, 1930 in Marion, Indiana. They had been arrested the night before, charged with robbing and murdering a white factory worker and raping his girlfriend. A large crowd broke into the jail with sledgehammers, beat the two men, and hanged them. Police officers in the crowd cooperated in the lynching. A third person, 16 year old James Cameron, narrowly escaped lynching thanks to an unidentified participant who announced that he had nothing to do with the rape or murder. A studio photographer, Lawrence Beitler, took a photograph of the dead bodies hanging from a tree surrounded by a large crowd.

Cameron, the third person, stated in interviews that Shipp and Smith had, in fact, started to rob a white man, who was later found shot. He says that he fled when he realized what was going on. The police accused all three men of murder and rape.

Much more info in an NPR article, Linked here.

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