On Wednesday, Google launched Andra Day’s cover of Billie Holiday’s classic song about the lynching of black people in the South, “Strange Fruit” on its “Lynching in America” site.
(George Meadows, “murderer & rapist,” lynched on scene of his last alleged crime. George Meadows was lynched at Pratt Mines (in Jefferson County) Alabama January 15 1889. Image: Wikimedia/Photograph by L. Horgan, Jr. via http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aap/aapmob.html)
The site is based off of the Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror documentary. The film features narratives from the descendants of blacks lynched in America as recently as the ’50s. An interactive map is also on the site, displaying lynching statistics by state and county.
According to an investigation done by the EJI, between the post-Civil War period known as “Reconstruction” and WWII, there were more than 4,000 reported racial lynchings in the United States.
(Billie Holiday. Image: Library of Congress)
Google has supported EJI’s work along with that of other social justice organization with more than $2 million in grants. The search engine giant also helped EJI digitize its research on the history of lynching.
“In this collaboration between Andra Day, EJI, and Google, we use music to express a painful and difficult truth about our nation’s history of racial inequality. Inspired music has the power to expose and confront injustice differently than research, data and words alone. It can heal and uplift us, it’s critical for human rights. Justice work needs a soundtrack that inspires the struggle, it’s energizing that talented artists like Andra rise to the challenge,” says Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative via a press release.
Andra Day also offered a statement; “Billie Holiday is one of the greatest inspirations for what I do now. She used her music as her platform and her voice to speak for people who were not able to speak for themselves. I am equally inspired by the work of Bryan Stevenson and EJI and I hope this song ignites new conversations about the connection between our past and present.”
Listen to Day’s cover of Strange Fruit (https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/strangefruit)