12 thoughts on “The Peekskill (NY) Riots (1949) – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Hi richards1052,

    came to your most interesting site due to your link in the TCB-MB,
    where I try to understand as much as possible, as my English is not the best,
    I wanted to congratulate you for your wonderful site and pictures, as
    I’m a great fan of your country and passed some wonderful time during my stays in a lot of National Parks and cities,

    greetings from tiny Luxembourg,

  2. I was out of twon on a job in Milwaukee for a week . Boyle’s World’s End was my companion. I loved that book. So now that I have moved to New York, I have visited Peekskill a couple of times on a sort of Worlds End pilgrimage. Thank you, thank you for greatly expanding my knowledge of the strife that city has seen. Thank you too for a post above that described the sycophantic relationship between the Israeli right and our govt in Washington.

  3. If you ever return to Peekskill you should try to see a movie or concert at the Paramount Theater. It’s one of those great old ’30s movie palaces. And make sure you drive Route 9 from the Bear Mountain Bridge south to Peekskill. It’s one of those beautiful old roads buitl in the 30s probably by the WPA or some other such agency. The view of the Hudson is extraordinary (it’s been featured in lots of car commercials).

    I wish I could say that I enjoyed World Without End as much as you. I loved the first two sections about Native American life and Dutch colonial life. But from there the stories bogged down for me. By the end, when the novel enters the 20th century I thought it had become a cartoon (especially the young motorcycle rider who gradually loses all of his limbs & his life through various grotesque accidents). The novel had great promise I thought. I loved the idea of a historical novel set in the Hudson River Valley. But it left something to be desired in terms of literary execution.

    And thanks for visiting…come back soon.

  4. I hope this url [click on the “Ron Abbey” link above] will take you to the page that I created in 2002 in response to web pages I have seen in connection with the so called Peekskill Riots. If you will go to my page you will get a somewhat different version than what you have written. I was there. I also knew Izzy Goldsand (I am now 83)
    You are totally wrong on some representations that you made.
    1. Fleischmans was not a “Major advertiser in the Peekskill Evening Star” They NEVER advertised in the paper, I should know I worked there.
    2. The Jewish War Veterans had their very own contingent marching in the “Parade” Sam Slutzky, commander was named in a suit brought by Paul Robeson.
    3. There was NOT a Ku Klux Klan in or around Peekskill.
    4. The riots (hideous as they were) did not take place in Peekskill at all – hence there were no Peekskill Police involved at all.
    5.The Fleischmans Union had their own group marchings as a union. Look closely at a picture that I took which reads “Wake Up America, Peekskill Did”
    6. I repeat what I state in my own web site. It was
    bloody, violent and viscous — but it was all about Communism and not about black people of jewish people.
    7. Paul Robeson was seen as a Communism sympathizer by those rioters and not as a black person.
    8. And finally, if you look at my page you will see that the your Secor was stabbed at the end of the dirt road leading into the picnic grounds. i was there and took pictures for the paper. I still maintain that it was that stabbing that led to all the tragic events that followed thereafter.
    9. I do not condone the acts by the people of the area at all, I only seek to have the record set correctly, this outburst of feeling, was about the danger and fear of Communism. If you were alive at that time you would know better the sentiment of the country, having just completed a terrible war.

  5. Mr. Abbey: I have read your website carefully. While I certainly cannot dispute your eyewitness view of the events, I certainly can dispute your political interpretation of the events and your view of what caused them.

    Basically, your view is that while the anti-Robeson thugs were “out of hand” (a phrase you use numerous times, but which seems entirely too euphemistic for the horrific violence that was inflicted on the Robeson forces), it can somehow be explained or justified by the “threat” to America represented by the deceitful, rapacious Communists. That’s of course an oversimiplification, but not by much.

    Your view of the McCarthy era that produced the Riots is entirely influenced by the anti-Communist rhetoric of the period. It’s as if you’re still inflicted with that paranoid virus which swept the country then.

    And please don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because we weren’t at the events themselves that we have no idea of what happened or the context for the events. Otherwise, there would be no point in studying history or writing about it. You’ve also fallen prey to a double standard in your claim that the witnesses know best what happened. You write about claims of anti-Semitism among the rioters:

    I do not know of any writings that depict the tragic events, other than those offerings by the biased concert attendees which all attempt to spin the events into anti jewish and racial bigotry.

    Why are your memories clear, fresh and unbiased while the accounts written by Robeson’s supporters are “offerings by the biased concert attendees which all attempt to spin the events…?” One man’s ‘spin’ is another man’s truth. For you, your truth is the only truth. A truly self-serving approach to history that adds doubt regarding your interpretation of those events.

    And as to your criticisms of specifics of my post, you’ll have to take them up with my sources because that’s where much of the information you cast doubt upon originates. I do concede that there are a few points you criticize in my post which I did not source properly so you would not have known in those few cases I derived my information from external sources.

    I note that you worked for the Evening Star, whose editorial stance hectored the community into hysterics over the Robeson concert. This renders your perspective a tad questionable. As an employee of that paper, I don’t see how you could have an objective viewpoint on the events themselves. Also, given the rabid tone of that publication’s editorials I don’t see any way that its “reporting of the actual violence that occurred in those two clashes was accurately detailed, and unbiased” as you claim.

    I also question your claim that there was no racist or anti-Semitic element to the riots. As you yourself should know, having lived through the period, anti-Communism, racism and anti-Semitism often went hand in hand in the America of that era. I see no reason to doubt that the anti-Robeson protestors were any different than the rest of the country in that respect. And the fact that an officer of the Jewish War Veterans supported the anti-Communists or was sued by Robeson has absolutely no bearing on whether or not the rioters were anti-Semitic.

    Yours would’ve been a much more interesting & thoughtful comment if you’d spoken more of my great uncle Izzy (I always enjoy meeting people who knew him) and less of your theories of Communist domination of the U.S.A.

  6. I am doing a sculptural installation about the Peekskill Riots this coming week Aug 24-25, 2005 in Peekskill called “hold the line’ The piece is part of the Peekskill Project 2005 sponsored by the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art. I remember thePeekskill Riots. I was four at the time and I have spent much of my life trying to come to terms with the effect this had on my family. My father was on the line. My grandmother was one of the organizers. The hate and rage directed at us affected my parents the rest of their lives. It is more a personal than a political approch but…And yes, they were anti-semitic and anti-black. Just look at the signs they held, just look at the rhetoric.

    Jo-Ann Brody

  7. My Father was one of the State Police Officers who was sent down from Albany after he, and a group of 32, were notified the night before that Albany felt they needed reinforcements. He was actually the one who tried to round the women and children into the center to try to protect them (which he says to this day he wasn’t sure if it was a smart idea since he was only a member of a group of 32). [Dad was a WWII vet and even though he would have had the attitude at the time of being vehemently anti-communist, he was also from the old school where you didn’t mess with women and children]. I heard these stories about the riot while growing up…about the local police standing by, the milkmen throwing their milk bottles, how he broke his nightstick and how he was more frightened during this riot than serving in the war. I was visiting them this XMas and saw some photos from a book on the NYS Police that he got as a present. The photos made me think of these stories again….and also saw for the first time how large and crazy the crowd was.

  8. i was at the second concert and being a child of 8 years old i had no idear of what was going on . just people singing and having something to eat, never thought of black or white. my mother took my brother and i to this picnick, in peekskill after the songs ended and we got on the busses to kleave the area i was looking out the windows at people running down the side of hills that were along the roadway, police were thire standind in the road while the busses left the park. AS WE LEFT THE MEN THAT WERE RUNNING DOWN THE HILLS ALONGSIDE THE ROAD WERE PICKING UP ROCKS AND throwing them at the windows of the busses , i remember a boy in the next seat, in back of me as the window smashed he got hit with the glass and was crying we layed down on the seat even trying to get under them while glass was shartering all around us. never did the police stop or try to stop the men who were throwing the rocks . it was a day ill never forget bright sunny , turned into a nightmare.

  9. I have just finished reading a book that was loaned to me, entitled, “The Peekskill, New York, Anti-Communist Riots of 1949” authored by Joseph Walwik, a historian. It has impressed me as the most unbiased, and comprehensive evaluation of Peekskill, and the riots that I have yet come across. I add this comment here because the person who loaned me the book said that whenever he sees anything pro or con about the riots he responds by recommending the book. So I am doing the same.

  10. Excellent article. The active Klan group you mention was pivotal in inciting. Pete Seeger was my guest at a Peekskill fundraiser last year just before his death. He mentioned those elements when he spoke. Sadly, we just went through a similar political experience in Peekskill. We fought back, and won, against race based gentrification. But these folks in city hall forgot there was a constitution. It was ugly.

  11. I was at the riots with my father. We lived in nearby Putnam County . I believe I was about 14 years old and remember the events very well. I haven’t seen anything before or since like this !

    1. @Alan: so sorry you had to live through this at such a young age. It must’ve been terrifying.

      My own father had close relatives from Peekskill & lived across the Hudson in Haverstraw. But he never told me anything about this. So I presume he wasn’t there.

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