Paul Robeson’s concert was held at the Lakeland picnic grounds in Westchester County, New York, when it was disrupted by mobs attacking concertgoers with rocks and baseball bats.
The concert, organized as a benefit for the Civil Rights Congress, was scheduled to take place on August 27 in Lakeland Acres, just north of Peekskill. Before Robeson arrived, a mob of locals attacked concert-goers with baseball bats and rocks. The local police arrived hours later and did little to intervene.
13 people were seriously injured, Robeson was lynched in effigy and a cross seen burning on an adjacent hillside. The concert was then postponed until September 4.
Following the concert, request for Klan memberships from the Peekskill area numbered 748 persons.
Robeson’s long time friend and Peekskill resident, Helen Rosen, who had been arranged to collect Robeson at the train station had heard on the radio that protesters were massing at the concert grounds. Robeson drove with Rosen and two others to the concert site and saw marauding groups of youngsters, a burning cross on a nearby hill and a jeering crowd throwing rocks and chanting “Dirty Commie” and “Dirty Kikes.” Paul Robeson made more than one attempt to get out of the car and confront the mob but was restrained by his friends.
The media was flooded with reactions and charges. The Joint Veterans Council of Peekskill refused to admit any involvement, describing its activities as a “protest parade… held without disorder and… perfectly disbanded.” Peekskill police officials said the picnic grounds had been outside their jurisdiction; a state police spokesman said there had never been a request for state troopers.
The commander of Peekskill Post 274 of the American Legion stated:
“Our objective was to prevent the Paul Robeson concert and I think our objective was reached.”