At 10:00AM on September 16th, 2011, Abel Meeropol’s name will be added to the “American National Tree.” The American National Tree is an exhibit at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia that “tells the stories of 100 Americans whose actions have helped write the story of the Constitution.” My father’s selection for this honor springs from high school student Ruthie Prillaman’s essay about Abel Meeropol and how he came to write Strange Fruit, his anti-lynching anthem popularized by Billie Holida
(Guest post by Rosenberg Fund for Children founder, Robert Meeropol. Hear more from Robert about the iconic song, Strange Fruit, see its relevance to current Movement for Black Lives, and watch a powerful performance of it by artist Pamela Means, in the video below.)
Most of you probably know about D.W. Griffith’s horrible 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation. It glorified the Ku Klux Klan. President Woodrow Wilson, a virulent racist, showed it in the White House.
Last fall the RFC was a sponsor of the first-ever Abel Meeropol Social Justice Writing Award presented by Straw Dog Writers Guild to poet Patricia Smith. The Guild was co-founded by my mother, Ellen Meeropol (a member of the RFC’s Advisory Board). My father, Robert Meeropol, spoke at the event about his adoptive father, Abel. The following essay was adapted from my dad’s speech. – Jenn Meeropol
(guest blog by RFC Communications Director, Amber Black)
Two topics consistently engage our supporters more than any others: the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and the song “Strange Fruit.” It’s been 65 years since the parents of our founder were executed, and 80 years since Abel Meeropol (the man who along with his wife Anne, adopted the Rosenbergs’ orphaned sons) wrote the anti-lynching anthem first as a poem and then set it to music.
But all these decades later, both the case and the song pop up virtually every day in a huge array of contexts including hard news and popular culture. So we’ve begun to spotlight them in a “Strange Fruit” and Rosenberg “Mention of the Day” on our social media.