Recorded by jazz legend Billie Holiday in 1939, "Strange Fruit" is considered to be the first significant song of the civil rights movement and the first direct musical assault upon racial lynchings in the South. Originally sung in New York's Cafe Society, these revolutionary lyrics take on a life of their own in this revealing account of the song and the struggle it personified. Strange Fruit not only chronicles the civil rights movement from the '30s on, it examines the lives of the beleaguered Billie Holiday and Abel Meeropol, the white Jewish schoolteacher and communist sympathizer who wrote the song that would have an impact on generations of fans, black and white, unknown and famous, including performers Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, and Sting.
On view Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, tells of the central role played by African Americans in advocating for their rights. Marking the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the exhibition is organized chronologically from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I. The voices of citizens responding to the challenge of citizenship are as relevant today as when first spoken, whether that message was delivered in the 19th century or the 21st.