White Plains, NY: 1949. 24pp. Original printed wrappers, stapled. Dust-soiling and minor wear to wrappers, slight creasing to rear wrapper. Clean internally, centerfold detached but present. Very good. Item #4594
A scarce pamphlet issued by a concerned citizens' group called the Westchester Committee for a Fair Inquiry Into the Peekskill Violence, after white mob violence erupted following not one but two Paul Robeson concerts in Peekskill in the late summer of 1949. Compared to the Deep South, racial violence in the North was relatively rare in the mid-20th century, but it was not unheard of. The present pamphlet stands as an "eyewitness" to the white mob violence that resulted from two Paul Robeson concerts (one thwarted, the other happened), motivated by racial violence and virulent anti-Communist sentiment around the country. The Westchester Committee details the events preceding the first Robeson concert, which was never held; Robeson "could not enter the grounds" due to "a mob that blocked the entrance." After much public debate, a second concert was announced for September 4. The second concert went off peacefully, until it was over. When trying to leave, the crowds inside the Hollow Brook County Club were greeted at the exit by an angry mob of over a thousand white men. Violence broke out inside and outside the concert grounds, which is captured in stark photographs over the course of eight pages here; the first photograph features "Eugene Ballard, first Negro aviator in World War I and holder of the Croix de Guerre, being clubbed to the ground by uniformed State and local police."
In the aftermath of this "bloody ambush," like so many times before and since, local authorities blamed the violence on the victims and no charges were brought against the mob (which the committee calls a "Whitewash"). The committee also prints reactions to the violence from a variety of sources including Eleanor Roosevelt, Joe Louis, the American Jewish Congress, the NAACP, and various clergy, notable legal groups, newspapers, and more. The rear wrapper contains a fiery full-page response to the incident by Paul Robeson himself, entitled "My Answer." Robeson decries the mob violence, encourages African Americans to be "part of the progressive forces," calls out racists of the "cracker breed," and vows to continue to "make the supreme fight for my people" against those who "revile me...scandalize me, and try to holler down on all sides." Robeson concludes, promising that his voice "will be heard above the screams of the intolerant. My weapons are peaceful for it is only by peace that peace can be attained. The song of freedom must prevail."