On this day in 1915, American jazz icon Billie Holiday was born Eleanora Fagan in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Holiday “apprenticed” with Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong by singing along to their records in after-hours jazz clubs in Baltimore, and by the age of 15, she had moved to New York City with her mother and was singing in Harlem nightclubs for tips. At age 18, she made her first recording as part of a studio group led by Benny Goodman. In the 1930s, Holiday was first introduced to the poem “Strange Fruit,” an emotional piece about the lynching of a black man. Though Columbia would not allow her to record the piece due to subject matter, Holiday went on to record the song with an alternate label, Commodore, and the song eventually became one of Holiday’s classics.

April Shipp of Auburn Hills, Michigan made this quilt titled “Strange Fruit: A Century of Lynching” in 2003.  The quilt includes the following inscription:

“Strange Fruit. A Century of Lynching and Murder 1865-1965 (in red machine embroidery) Dedicated to Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (in gold machine embroidery) 100s of names of victims of lynchings and their states (in gold machine embroidery).”

The quilt was documented in 2008 as part of the Michigan Quilt Project. Read the artist’s statement in the full Quilt Index record for this quilt here.

View this quilt on The Quilt Index to find out! Read more about its history, design and construction. Be sure to use the zoom tool for a detailed view or click the “See full record” link to see a larger image and all the data entered about that quilt.


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Posted by Amy E. Milne
Executive Director, Quilt Alliance