"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Wednesday, July 23, 2003 Strange Fruit: Interesting documentary on PBS last night on the anti-lynching song made famous by Billie Holiday, and penned by a radical schoolteacher who with his wife adopted the Rosenbergs' sons. Compelling subject matter, but the presentation was an exercise in Old Leftist hagiography: the Seegerista spin certainly isn't the last word, even if it is presented as such in the college classes that will be watching this show for credit. (For example, if protesting the system got you called a Red, as the Old Lefties disingenuously whine, maybe it was because so many of them were indeed Reds.) "Independent film on PBS" shouldn't necessarily equal propaganda. Wouldn't the story be just as powerful played straight?
Hear a clip of "Strange Fruit" at the Billie Holiday page of the Ken Burns Jazz series website.
Speaking of PBS and history, I've been enjoying the History Detectives program, in which historical investigators track down whether a family heirloom sword was indeed once owned by Napoleon, or determine whether a wooden house in Salem actually dates to the Witch Trials by gauging the age of nearby trees. But the race-class-and-gender leanings of the modern historical profession are evident: I've seen two episodes on slave history in two weeks. And in a recent investigation into the provenance of a whimsical 1890s jigsaw puzzle depicting Gibson-like girls playing tackle football, the appraiser was bent on reading a suffragist statement in the piece upon learning the maker was an unmarried Boston woman. Couldn't the lady have just liked the picture?