From Lynching Photos to Michael Brown’s Body: Commodifying Black Death

An iconic photo was taken of the lynching that would go on to inspire the classic Billie Holiday song, “Strange Fruit.” The writer of the lyrics, Abel Meeropol, said that the photograph “haunted” him “for days,” and he wrote a poem about it. Among the vivid words: “Pastoral scene of the gallant South/The bulgin’ eyes and the twisted mouth.”I saw this photo dozens of times throughout my childhood in the Black history books my parents made me read as a child, many of which were filled with photos of lynchings. I remember my parents saying “that can still happen to you,” as I looked on aghast.The photos scared me, but on the rare occasion they reappeared in school lessons, my predominantly White classmates usually said “ewww,” or laughed. The photos that served as warnings for Black children were used as mementos and retrograde shareable content among White people. Black people were and still can be regarded as things to be taken apart and passed down.

 

via From Lynching Photos to Michael Brown’s Body: Commodifying Black Death.

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