Paul Robeson was one of America’s most gifted actors and entertainers, who achieved international stardom by way of his dignified stature and prodigious talents. However, Robeson’s anti-colonialist views, his outspoken thoughts on the Ku Klux Klan and his support of perceived pro-Soviet policies made him an enemy of the state. On this day in 1949, a riot broke out in Peekskill, New York after Robeson was slated to perform at a venue there.
Robeson fell into discord with America long before comments he made in Paris that year were twisted to make it seem that he was sympathetic to the U.S.S.R. At that time, the Soviet nation was American’s sworn enemy and fear of Communism was high. Robeson performed three times prior in Peekskill, but when the inaccurate report was printed in local papers, the public was outraged.
On August 27, the day when the concert was to take place, angry white mobs took to the Lakeland Acres near Peekskill where Robeson was headed by car. As he and his colleagues approached the venue, Robeson heard the mob chanting anti-Semitic slurs and burning wooden crosses. An effigy of Robeson was set up as if he was lynched. Though Robeson attempted to address the mob, he was whisked away.
Armed with bats and rocks, the mob attacked concertgoers. The local police didn’t respond to the unrest until much later and when they did, they did nothing to stop the melee. Cars were overturned and copies of Robeson’s music were burned. About 13 people were seriously injured. The concert was postponed until September 4, but that wouldn’t be the end of it.
A group of Robeson supporters known as the The Westchester Committee for Law and Order formed. The group elected to protect the concert grounds from rioters and pledged their support of Robeson. On August 30, Robeson spoke in Harlem, vowing to return to Peekskill and fearlessly denouncing the rioters. The second concert went off without any problems. However, exiting the venue would be another story as anti-Communist protesters began attacking the crowd and blocking buses going southbound.
The crowd hurled rocks at the concertgoers and cursed at them. Police watched as attendees linked arms in nonviolent resistance and were beaten by the crowd. Over 140 persons were injured, including the first Black combat pilot in World War I, Eugene Bullard.
In September 1999, officials in Westchester County held a “Remembrance and Reconciliation Ceremony” on the 50th anniversary of the second riots. Paul Robeson Jr., folk singer Pete Seeger, who was a performer at the second concert, and others spoke in memory and apology to those who survived the attacks.
Like BlackAmericaWeb.com on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
1 of 31
2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
2 of 31
3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
3 of 31
4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
4 of 31
5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
5 of 31
6 of 31
7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
7 of 31
8 of 31
9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
9 of 31
10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
10 of 31
11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
11 of 31
12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
12 of 31
13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
13 of 31
14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
14 of 31
15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
15 of 31
16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
16 of 31
17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
17 of 31
18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
18 of 31
19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
19 of 31
20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
20 of 31
21. Bae #retailtherapy
21 of 31
22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
22 of 31
23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
23 of 31
24. Diggy Simmons
24 of 31
25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
25 of 31
26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
26 of 31
27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
27 of 31
28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
28 of 31
29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
29 of 31
30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
30 of 31
31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
31 of 31