On this day in 1964, three civil rights workers were murdered by a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob near the town of Meridian, Mississippi. The murders of James Chaney, a 21-year-old black man from Meridian; Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old white Jewish anthropology student from New York; and Michael Schwerner, a 24-year-old white Jewish CORE organizer and former social worker also from New York, demonstrated the dangers faced by civil rights workers in the South, especially during what became known as “Freedom Summer”, dedicated to voter education and registration.
April Shipp of Auburn Hills, Michigan made this quilt, titled “Strange Fruit” in 2003, which includes hundreds of names of victims of lynchings and their states, along with two rope nooses.
Shipp wrote, “Strange Fruit is named after a song by the late Billie Holiday, and it’s dedicated to Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, an African American Newspaper journalist born in 1862, who fought for an anti-lynching law…The textures represent their position in life, i.e. silk, cotton, and denim. In making this Quilt, I learned that it did not matter who you were. Just ask Detective Albert Parker (lynched 1868) or Reverend L.C. Baldwin (murdered 1956). It did not matter how old you were. Just ask Virgil Ware, age 13 (murdered 1963) or the 3 murdered children of Thomas Harris. It could happen to anyone, anywhere, and anytime. I did this Quilt in loving memory of my people, people I have never met, people whose names are not only woven into the fabric of this Quilt, but also into the fabric of my heart. This Quilt is truly a miracle!”
Shipp’s quilt was documented during the Michigan Quilt Project.
View this quilt on The Quilt Index to read more about it’s history, design and construction. Be sure to use the zoom tool for a detailed view.
Posted by Amy E. Milne
Executive Director, Quilt Alliance