Southern trees bear strange fruit.
There's blood on the leaves,
There's blood at the roots.
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze;
There's strange fruit hanging from the poplar tree.
The scenic view of the quiet south;
Those bulging eyes, the twisted mouth.
The scent of magnolia comes as sweet and fresh.
Suddenly: the stench of black burning flesh.
Now here my friends,
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck.
A tear for the rain to gather;
The roaring wind to suck.
For the sun to rise,
And those trees to drop:
And I hear there's a strange and bitter crop.
Billie Holiday was not the first artist to sing this song but after she performed it at New York’s Café Society in 1939 it became a potent political instrument for change. Its political significance has never faded and it was banned in South Africa during the apartheid years.