The movie, U.S. vs. Billie Holiday, streaming on Hulu, portrays the persecution of the American jazz and swing music singer Billie Holiday (1915-1959) during Jim Crow segregation. She was an outstanding singer and definitely a musical pioneer. She also dared to challenge the rigid stereotypes of the segregationist era. In 1939, she started singing the song “Strange Fruit,” based on a poem about the lynching of a black person. The song has been called “a declaration” and “the beginning of the civil rights movement.”
Daring to sing this song in the 1940s attracted the attention of law enforcement, who through surveillance learned that she had drug and alcohol problems. She was convicted and sentenced to prison, but for less than a year. In 1948, she played Carnegie Hall to a sold-out crowd. More on her career.