One Musician ‘s Support Of The Civil Rights Movement Sparked Peekskill Riots of 1949 That Resulted In Over 100 African Americans Being Injured

0 Posted by - July 2, 2018 - City, LATEST POSTS, Racism

peekskillOn the day that Paul Robeson, a famous African-American singer was to give his open-air concert performance in New York on September 4th, 1949, White locals from the Westchester County, New York area lined up and band together to shout hate-filled insults at the carloads of Black people traveling to the performance. The concert was originally supposed to have taken place a month before, but it had to be called off when the audience was attacked. There was an image of Robeson lynched and a cross set on fire, which was a sure sign of the Ku Klux Klan. The police showed no concern over what was taking place.

Robeson had previously performed in the area and it was very peace, however, he had been misquoted by the media, and the White Americans were angry. It was no secret that Robeson had sympathy for Soviet Russia, his anti-war stance was known to get reaction and get him in trouble. He was claimed to have said that the United States government was similar to Hitler and Goebbels, and it was unthinkable that American Negroes would go to war against Russia on behalf of the White man who had oppressed them.


“The US emerged from the Second World War as a better-integrated country, but African-Americans remained the exception. Much of the country was segregated as, by-and-large, its armed forces had been throughout the war. It may have been a crusade for freedom, but it was selective in its definitions. When racism was mixed with the fear and hatred of Communism stirred up by the coming of the Cold War it made for a powerful cocktail. Hence the cries of ‘dirty nigger-lovers’ and ‘dirty Commies’ at Peekskill – even ‘dirty kikes’, since the concert organizer, Helen Rosen, a local friend of Robeson’s, was Jewish.”

Although, the left-winged trade unions arrived on the day the concert was to take place and formed a human wall to ensure the concert was not interrupted. The actual trouble did not occur until after the concert. Cars were stoned, windows smashed, and White police just stood off to the side and watched. Robeson’s stance and criticism of the United States government eventually caused him to be blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Read more.

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