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 (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
1 of 30
2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
2 of 30
3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
3 of 30
4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
4 of 30
5. Jus haaaanngin out
5 of 30
6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
6 of 30
7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
7 of 30
8. new new
8 of 30
9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
9 of 30
10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
10 of 30
11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
11 of 30
12 of 30
13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
13 of 30
14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
14 of 30
15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
15 of 30
16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
16 of 30
17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
17 of 30
18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
18 of 30
19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
19 of 30
20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
20 of 30
21 of 30
22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
22 of 30
23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
23 of 30
24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
24 of 30
25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
25 of 30
26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
26 of 30
27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
27 of 30
28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
28 of 30
29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
29 of 30
30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
30 of 30