Abel Meeropol

Abel Meeropol (1903-1986) was an American teacher and writer.

"Abel Meeropol was born into a Jewish family on 10th February, 1903. After leaving college he became a teacher in New York City. His students included Paddy Chayefsky, Neil Simon and James Baldwin. Meeropol was also a member of the American Communist Party. Meeropol was also a writer and worried about anti-semitism and chose to publish his poem under the pseudonym 'Lewis Allan', the first names of his two stillborn children. In 1937 Meeropol saw a photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. Meeropol later recalled how the photograph 'haunted me for days' and inspired the writing of the poem, Strange Fruit. The poem was published in the New York Teacher and later, the Marxist journal, New Masses. After seeing Billie Holiday perform at the club, Café Society, in New York City, Meeropol showed her the poem. Holiday liked it and after working on it with Sonny White turned the poem into the song, Strange Fruit. The record made it to No. 16 on the charts in July 1939. However, the song was denounced by Time Magazine as 'a prime piece of musical propaganda' for the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg were executed on 19th June, 1953. As Joanna Moorhead pointed out: 'From the time of their parents' arrests, and even after the execution, they (Rosenberg's two sons) were passed from one home to another—first one grandmother looked after them, then another, then friends. For a brief spell, they were even sent to a shelter. It seems hard for us to understand, but the paranoia of the McCarthy era was such that many people—even family members—were terrified of being connected with the Rosenberg children, and many people who might have cared for them were too afraid to do so.' Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne, eventually agreed to adopt Michael Rosenberg and Robert Rosenberg. According to Robert: 'Abel didn't get any work as a writer throughout most of the 1950s... I can't say he was blacklisted, but it definitely looks as though he was at least greylisted.' Both boys later changed their name to Meeropol. Meeropol taught at the De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx for 27 years, but continued to write songs, including the Frank Sinatra hit, The House I Live In and Apples, Peaches and Cherries that was successfully recorded by Peggy Lee. A French version of this song, Scoubidou, was a number one hit in France for Sacha Distel. Abel Meeropol died on 30th October, 1986, at the Jewish Nursing Home in Longmeadow, Massachusetts."


Strange Fruit