Peekskill USA: Inside the Infamous 1949 Riots

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Peekskill USA: Inside the Infamous 1949 Riots

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Forgotten password? Perlo, an editor, and her husband, Victor, an economist, were among hundreds of people who came to hear Robeson, known for his rich bass-baritone voice and his civil rights activities. Many of those people, however, had shown up at the Lakeland Acres picnic area in Peekskill, shouting and brandishing rocks to protest the singer's sympathies for the Soviet Union and the Communist Party.

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The melee that ensued, in which dozens of people were injured and scores, scared -- was to be known as the Peekskill Riots. Lonnie G. Barnes Jr.

Elie, who works as a librarian and storyteller for the Yorktown Central School District, became interested in the Peekskill Riots when she joined the Walkabout Chorus, one of Pete Seeger's nonprofit, ecologically oriented groups. Among the folk songs they learned was Seeger's ''Hold the Line. Elie later learned that it was written for Robeson's performance: because violence had been threatened, the singer's supporters had volunteered to link arms and form a barrier between him and the troublemakers.

Elie said. In the last two years, Ms. Elie researched Robeson's life and tracked down residents who remembered the riots. Among them were the Perlos. Now in their 80's and living in Croton, the Perlos were active in the Democratic Party and the civil rights movement. But, they said, they liked Mr. Robeson's personality as well as his ideas.


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  • Perlo recalled. She was in a total body cast. He came and sat by her side and sang three lullabies.

    Peekskill USA: Inside the Infamous Riots by Howard Fast

    There wasn't a dry eye in the house. A few years later, he was at a benefit in Chicago. The couple and Esther came in -- Esther was now walking on crutches. He stopped what he was saying and said, in front of everyone, 'Hello, Esther,' and then announced that she was an example of what one can do when one is really trying. Lloyd Brown, an year-old writer and editor, who lives in Manhattan, also remembers Robeson personally. Additionally, Mr. Brown was one of the volunteers who guarded Paul Robeson at the infamous concert. The singer's voice, he recalled, was as strong and moving as ever.

    Brown said. We got on the bus to go back to New York City and rocks started flying through the windows. I had served time in the Army and my training came in handy.

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