Lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were African-American men who were lynched on August 7, 1930, in Marion, Indiana, after being taken from jail and beaten by a mob. They had been arrested that night as suspects in a robbery, murder and rape case. A third African-American suspect, 16-year-old James Cameron, had also been arrested and narrowly escaped being killed by the mob; he was helped by the intervention of an unknown woman and returned to jail. He was later convicted and sentenced as an accessory before the fact. Later he became a civil rights activist.

The local chapter of the NAACP and the State's Attorney General struggled to indict some of the lynch mob, but no one was ever charged for the murders of Shipp and Smith, nor the attack on Cameron.

Legacy

  • The night of the lynching, studio photographer Lawrence Beitler took a photograph of the crowd by the bodies of the men hanging from a tree. He sold thousands of copies over the next 10 days, and it has become an iconic image of a lynching.
  • In 1937 Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from New York and the adoptive father of the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, saw a copy of Beitler's 1930 photograph. Meeropol later said that the photograph "haunted me for days" and inspired his poem "Bitter Fruit". It was published in the New York Teacher in 1937 and later in the magazine New Masses, in both cases under the pseudonym Lewis Allan. Meeropol set his poem to music, renaming it "Strange Fruit." He performed it at a labor meeting in Madison Square Garden. In 1939 it was performed, recorded and popularized by American singer Billie Holiday. The song reached 16th place on the charts in July 1939, and has since been recorded by numerous artists, continuing into the 21st century.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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