This Day in History

Sept. 4, 1949: Concert in Peekskill Attacked

Time Periods: Cold War: 1945 - 1960
Themes: African American, Art & Music

Peekskill, New York. Source: unknown

On Labor Day weekend in 1949, the rescheduled benefit concert for the Civil Rights Congress with Paul Robeson was held in Peekskill, New York after the first attempt was brutally attacked by racist mobs.

Security, organized by labor unions, was tight with union members standing in a circle of protection around the entire concert grounds and sitting with Robeson on the stage.

However, about 140 attendees were beaten as they left the concert.

In his 1951 Peekskill U.S.A., Howard Fast wrote of the first attempt to hold the concert on August 27:

Their leaders had been drinking from pocket flasks and bottles right up to the moment of the attack, and now as they beat and clawed at our lines, they poured out a torrent of obscene words and slogans. They were conscious of Adolf Hitler. He was a god in their ranks and they screamed over and over,

“We’re Hitler’s boys — Hitler’s boys!”

“We’ll finish his job!”

“God bless Hitler and f— you n—– bastards and Jew bastards!”

“Lynch Robeson! Give us Robeson! We’ll string that big n—– up! Give him to us, you bastards!”

Continue reading the account by author Howard Fast who was there.

Read more in Remembering Peekskill by Joel Feingold in Jacobin.