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21-Day Challenge Discussion around the History of the Song "Strange Fruit"

Please join the IDEA committee’s third ‘21 Day Challenge’ zoom discussion on Thursday, July 29th, from 3pm to 4pm facilitated by Regina Rush and Brenda Gunn. (Registration for the discussion: https://cal.lib.virginia.edu/event/7985016.) This session will use Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit” as a lens for examining the high cost of activism and speaking truth to power. Holiday’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” gave voice to the frustrations felt by blacks over lynchings being carried out against African-Americans that was largely tolerated or ignored by the country. Her activism came at a high cost: the FBI terrorized Holiday up to her death, As she lay dying, her hospital room was raided, and she was placed under police guard. On July 15, she received the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church. She died at age 44, at 3:10 a.m. on July 17, of pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver” (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billie_Holiday#cite_note-97.

We will also bring into the conversation an article on “care work,” and reflect on how we can bring empathy and care more fully into our environments. Though the article (Caswell and Cifor, “Revisiting an Ethics of Care in Archives,” is directed towards archival workers, we believe the commentary can be applied more broadly.

Note: Though the session co-leaders do not plan to deal directly with the lyrics of “Strange Fruit,” participants in the session should enter the discussion space knowing that the lyrics describe the murder of black bodies by lynching and that violence and trauma against black bodies will be present in the discussion, even if in the background.

In preparation for the discussion, please read the following:

(These are not necessary for the discussion, but they give excellent background about the history of the song and the case mounted against Billie Holiday by the government.)

  • The Man Behind Strange Fruit



  • The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021), Currently available on Hulu

Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.


To register for the discussion: https://cal.lib.virginia.edu/event/7985016

Thursday, July 29, 2021
3:00pm - 4:00pm
LHR Learning and Development Calendar
Hosted by Brenda Gunn and Regina Rush.
Registration has closed.

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The U.Va. Library is committed to hosting library events that are inclusive and welcoming to all. If you need certain accommodations to participate fully in this event, please contact libevents@virginia.edu.

Event Organizer

Suzanne Bombard