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Thoughts For Pete Seeger Are Especially Strong In Peekskill

Pete Seeger is being remembered for his activism. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Clearwater
Legendary folk-singer & activist Pete Seeger remembers the 1949 Peekskill Attacks
Legendary folk-singer & activist Pete Seeger remembers the 1949 Peekskill Attacks Video Credit: YouTube

PEEKSKILL, N.Y.-- In September of 1949, Pete Seeger gave one of his most memorable performances in Cortlandt Manor.

Seeger, who died at the age of 94 on Monday, was part of a concert that formed the backdrop of the Peekskill Riots. The riots started when Paul Robeson, an African-American activist, announced he would be performing a concert in Peekskill. 

Robeson's concert caused protests, with rioters attacking concertgoers as police stood by and did not help. Thirteen people were seriously injured and Robeson was lynched in effigy according to the book "Paul Robeson, I Want To Make Freedom Ring."

A second concert was scheduled at the Hollow Brook Golf Course in Cortlandt Manor, with Woody Guthrie and Seeger set to perform along with Roebson.

While the concert went off without incident, concertgoers and musicians were attacked afterwards with rocks being thrown at them. Rioters used racial slurs and told them to go back to Russia. More than 100 people were injured.

Seeger was in a car with Guthrie, his wife Toshi and his infant son and pinned a shirt to the inside of the window to keep it from shattering.

Some of the rocks thrown at Seeger were used for his fireplace at his home in Beacon. Darrell Davis, a Peekskill activist, said Seeger was a treasure.

"His daughter said he wished he could've done more," Davis said. "He felt he could never do enough for people. He put himself second to the cause."

Seeger participated in fundraising events with Davis and always refused to be compensated, driving himself to the events.

"He would ask what else I can do to help," Davis said. "He did things because it was the right thing to do. He didn't do it for the notoriety. He is an example for all of us. When you live in a democracy, you have to stand up for democratic principles." 

Davis recently went to court for an incident at a Peekskill meeting and said Seeger was there to show his support.

"Out jumped a smiling Pete Seeger," Davis said. "He walked in with me hand in hand. He deserves a rest after all he's done. To celebrate him, we need to bring democracy forward."

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