Popovich provides history lesson on Indiana lynchings, meaning behind Billie Holiday song ‘Strange Fruit’

Spurs coach discusses Indiana lynchings that occurred 90 years ago Friday

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 05: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Quinndary Weatherspoon #15 during action against the Denver Nuggets in the second half at Visa Athletic Center at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 5, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images) (Kim Klement, 2020 Getty Images)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Gregg Popovich provided a history lesson Friday morning in an effort to keep awareness of racial injustices at the forefront of the NBA’s restart in Orlando.

Prior to the Spurs game against the Utah Jazz, Popovich discussed at length the details surrounding the 1930 lynchings in Marion, Indiana, which occurred 90 years ago Friday.

On Aug. 7, 1930, three Black teenagers suspected of robbery, murder and rape were pulled from their jail cells by a mob of thousands of white people.

Two were beaten and then hanged from a tree in the county courthouse square.

The third teenager narrowly escaped the mob and was protected by a woman who said the teen had nothing to do with the alleged crimes.

“The NAACP investigated photos because it was easy to see all the people,” Popovich said. “About 27 of them were indicted, but white juries found them all innocent. Nobody paid for the crimes.”

Popovich continued, “This is 1930. This isn’t 1650 or 1702. This is 1930. Nineteen years before I was born.”

Popovich then referred to a photo from the lynchings that was the influence for a poem written in 1937 titled “Strange Fruit.”

The poem became a popular song after it was covered and recorded by Billie Holiday.

It essentially became a protest song to detail the history of African-American lynchings. Holiday was threatened every time she sang it in public.

“I read that and then learned that between the Civil War and 1950, there were 6,500 lynchings. Think about your family. Think about your ancestors. Imagine one. That’s two per week for nine decades,” Popovich said. “And people who want to ask what’s the big to do about all this? Shameful.”

Popovich has been one of the most outspoken individuals on social justice since the NBA restarted play in Orlando. The league is using the restart to bring awareness to racial injustices and police brutality.


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About the Author:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.