Peekskill, New York and the Anti-Communist Riots of 1949

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In the summer of 1949, the Cold War came to Peekskill, NY, as two proposed Paul Robeson concerts were marred by the protests of local veterans’ organizations. The protests exploded into violence as area residents joined the protest. This even provides important insights into the nature of American anti-communism in the early Cold War. The riots, and anti-communism in general, have long been portrayed as the result of political manipulation. This work suggest that it is more a rational response to local, national, and international events than it is a product of political conspiracy. This work rectifies the usual overly-simplified view by examining the cause-and-effect relationships that led to the events, within the larger context of the Cold War.


“Walwik does much more than chronicle the riots and their aftermath themselves. He treats Peekskill as a window into Cold War American society and culture, shedding valuable light on the vexing question of why these riots occurred where and when they did and what they tell us about the tensions tearing Cold War American society apart. This painstakingly evenhanded study, which gives both sides their voice, offers a rare and compelling look into the interplay of local, national, and international forces that came to bear upon the inhabitants of one small community. . . . Walwik’s illuminating study will challenge all readers to reexamine their assumptions about what occurred and think anew about its significance for understanding Cold War America and its inhabitants.” – Peter J. Kuznick

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