​September 4, 1949: The Peekskill Riots Erupt After A Paul Robeson Concert

0 Posted by - September 4, 2017 - BLACK MEN, BLACKS IN THE MILITARY, CIVIL RIGHTS, ENTERTAINMENT, Injustices, JIM CROW, LATEST POSTS, Looking Black On Today, Missing From Textbooks, MUSIC, Racism

The Peekskill Riots were anti-communist riots with anti-black and anti-Semitic undertones that took place at Cortlandt Manor, Westchester County, New York, in 1949. 

The catalyst for the rioting was an announced concert by black singer Paul Robeson, who was well known for his strong pro-trade union stance, civil rights activism, communist affiliations, and anti-colonialism. 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.

SECOND CONCERT: The re-scheduled (September 4, 1949) concert itself was free from violence, though marred by the presence of a police helicopter overhead and the flushing out of at least one sniper’s nest. The concert was located on the grounds of the old Hollow Brook Golf Course in Cortlandt Manor, near the site of the original concert.

20,000 people showed up. Security, organized by labor unions, was tight with union men standing in a protective circle around the entire concert grounds and sitting with Robeson on the stage. Musicians, such as Pete Seeger, performed without incident. The aftermath of the concert, however, was far from peaceful. 

After some violence to south-going buses near the intersection of Locust Avenue and Hillside Avenue (Hillside Avenue has been renamed Oregon Road ), concertgoers were diverted to head northward to Oregon Corners and forced to run a gauntlet miles long of hostile locals, veterans, and outside agitators, who threw rocks through windshields of the cars and buses. Much of the violence was also caused by anti-Communist members of local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion chapters.

Standing off the angry mob of rioters chanting “go on back to Russia, you niggers” and “white niggers”, some of the concertgoers and union members, along with writer Howard Fast and others assembled a non-violent line of resistance, locked arms, and sang the song “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Some people were reportedly dragged from their vehicles and beaten. 

Over 140 people were injured and numerous vehicles were severely damaged as police stood by.

Read about the beating of the Eugene Bullard, the aftermath and legacy of the riots at:https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=629377290566687&substory_index=0&id=101575520013536

No comments

Leave a reply