This Day In History: 1949-08-28

The Robeson riots of 1949

Riots prevented Paul Robeson form singing at the Lakeland picnic grounds near Peekskill, Westchester County, New York.

A tall black man in a dark jacket, gray pants, and a tie walked out on the stage, surrounded by 15 bodyguards.

“He walked up on stage and you could hear the most horrible epithets coming from people on the sidelines,” said one woman who was there while her husband stood in the protective ring of guards. “He stood out marvelously.”

“Suddenly, he flashed out a tremendous smile, the most winning smile of anyone I knew,” she said. “The whole audience broke out into applause. He had such a magic about him.”

Paul Robeson began to sing:

“When Israel was in Egypt’s land
Let my people go…”

Out on Oregon Road, people started gathering rocks into piles.

Attribution: Ben Courtney –

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