KEXP Documentaries: Civil Rights Songs – Strange Fruit

Every week KEXP brings you a musical subject in the time it takes to play just one song.
We call these stories KEXP Documentaries. They’re a mix of interviews, storytelling and music.

The current series “Civil Rights Songs” is by far the most difficult subject I’ve ever researched. The crimes done to African-Americans during the Civil Rights Era are horrific. And what’s especially startling to me is that the 50’s and 60’s weren’t that long ago. People were murdered, beaten, terrorized, all over issues of equality. African-Americans were trying to send their children to good schools. They wanted to be able to sit and eat at a drugstore counter. Or ride the bus without having to give up their seat. How could anyone not want these people to have equal rights? It’s baffling to me.

In this series we’re focusing on the music from the era, and how it made changes. The first episode is on Billie Holiday and the song “Strange Fruit.” Ten years before what’s known as the “Civil Rights Era,” Billie Holiday used her fame to sing this song about lynching, the hanging and beating of African-Americans done mostly in the South.

Listen to the documentary now:

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Civil rights are still an issue today. Our Constitution guarantees that everyone should be treated equally under the law. If you want to find out how to take action for today’s civil rights causes go to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Michele Myers produces KEXP Documentaries. With assistance from John Felthous. Executive producer is Kevin Cole. Enter your favorite artist in the search engine to find out if there’s a doc on them. And you can hear all the KEXP Docs series including: Psychedelics, Music Revolutionaries, Punk Evolution and The Heart of Soul in on-demand at

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