I recently visited family in Atlanta and took a girls getaway with my cousin Lauren to Savannah, a cute city near the Georgia coast full of Southern charm. It was my first time in Savannah, and for that reason alone, I was excited for the trip. Apart from that, I was hesitant to visit Savannah as I’m not a big fan of the South. I, like most black Americans, have roots in the South. My dad is a native of Florida, and my mother, a military brat, often spent summers visiting relatives in Tennessee. My grandparents on both sides are/were Southern born and bred for generations dating back to slavery.
Slavery. Jim Crow. The injustices that spurred the Civil Rights Movement. Stories from my mother about being pelted in the head with rocks and called the n-word at the tender age of five. Stories from my father about having to attend segregated schools and having to sit in the back of the bus. The death of four little girls. Fire hoses. Dogs. The denial of voting rights. The denial of human rights. Dr. King’s assassination. Paula Deen and people like her who still co-sign ignorant, racist attitudes. George Zimmerman – not guilty verdict. Racism in the South. Southern attitudes. The South – and all of the reasons it’s hard for me to be a fan.
Yet, Savannah’s charm enraptured me. As Lauren and I drove down streets lined with willow trees that boasted plantation-style homes, I couldn’t help but feel a bit mesmerized by Savannah’s beauty. And then we drove past the tree pictured above, and at that moment, I thought to myself, What a beautiful tree.
The next day during our Freedom Trail tour which I’ll post about soon, we drove past the same tree, and the guide announced, “This is the Candler Oak. It was used as a hanging tree.”
Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze, Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees. Pastoral scene of the gallant South, The bulgin’ eyes and the twisted mouth, Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh, Then the sudden smell of burnin’ flesh. Here is fruit for the crows to pluck, For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck, For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop, Here is a strange and bitter crop. “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday
*This blog post is featured in Travel Photo Thursday. Be sure to check it out!
Have you ever felt conflicted about a place you’ve traveled to?