Milk of Human Kindness and Walking While Black.
Milk of Human Kindness and Walking While Black.

Click on the link here for Audio Player – CBS Radio News – reports on Peekskill riots – August 1949 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

Maybe it’s Summer. Maybe it’s August. But the amount of rage and mayhem taking place during this particular month gives one pause, to  say the least.  But maybe it’s just always been that way.

Certainly 65 years ago in August it was about the Red Scare and Communists crawling out of the woodwork, with race going along for the ride. In August of 1949 a riot broke out in the otherwise peaceful, bucolic surroundings of Peekskill New York. It was about the concert appearance of Singer/Activist/alleged Communist Paul Robeson, whom many in the town objected to having him show up in Peekskill because of his alleged Communist sympathies. In short order violence broke out and the concert was cancelled.

But after meeting with town officials and the subject of Free Speech being introduced into the equation, the concert was rescheduled for the following week.

And the following week the violence only escalated with racial epithets being tossed at the concert attendees along with anti-Communist slogans and chants.

All in all, a wave of violence which would only serve as a prototype for more violence in other parts of the country to come.

In September 4th 1949, CBS Radio ran a documentary on the goings on in Peekskill, with on-the-spot reports and a recap of the events surrounding what became yet another in an ugly legacy of small-mindedness and hate.

Here is that report.

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