Marion, Indiana, 1930. Three black men accused of murder and rape, were taken from custody by a mob. Two were mutilated, murdered and hung from a tree. This is the story of Strange Fruit and those involved in its planting and cultivation.
The events leading up to, and the night of, August 7th 1930. Marion, Indiana.
(The quotations are James Cameron's own words, from his 1982 autobiography, “A Time of Terror: A Survivor's Story”)
Two 19 year olds, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith persuaded 16 year old James Cameron to join them in a robbery at a local “lovers’ lane”. Handing the younger boy a gun, they found a car parked there. Inside was white factory worker, Claude Deeter and his girlfriend Mary Ball.When James realised that he recognised the man as one of his regular shoe-shine clients, he declared that he wanted no more to do with it, and handing the gun back to the others, ran for his home. As he ran off he heard two gunshots fired.
Within hours the three had all been arrested and taken into custody.
Rumours quickly spread that three black men had committed a murder and robbery and raped a white woman. A mob, numbering thousands, swarmed to the Grant County Courthouse with torches guns and any tool that lay to hand that could be used as a weapon, to "get those goddamn Niggers." Ku Klux Clan members were among the throng and many police officers mingled amongst, and joked with the crowd.
Despite there being a reported fifty armed guards in the building, the mob smashed down the doors, grabbed Thomas Shipp dragging him out into the street and beat the life out of him.
It seemed “all of those ten to fifteen thousand people were trying to hit him all at once.”They dragged his body with a rope, hauling it in front of the windows of the cell of Abram Smith, they went for him next.
He too was beaten and mutilated.
“Those who were not close enough to hit him threw rocks and bricks. Somebody rammed a crowbar through his chest several times in great satisfaction." The bodies of the two men were dragged with ropes to the court house square and hung from a tree.
Returning to the jail, the lynch-mob grabbed James Cameron and "mauled him all the way to the square." The crowd were baying for him to be strung up. He was dragged to the tree and a noose put around his neck.
An unknown woman’s voice called out over the crowd. "Take this boy back. He doesn't have anything to do with any shooting or raping."