American still life

During and especially after the civil war, the American South wasn’t a safe place for African Americans. Barbaric lynchings were commonplace, accepted, even ‘commercialised’. The photographs taken were sold as postcards in souvenir shops alongside post-mortem trophies such as bone fragments, hair, ears, etc. The killers often posed with the bodies. Lynchings were generally attended by throngs of people, young and old, from all walks of life, even from other states or villages and ‘the law’ would just fade away and let mob justice take over.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

- Bitter Fruit, Abel Meeropol, 1937