1950 August 20

Grand Jury Criticizes ACLU Report on Peekskill Anti-Communist Riot


The ACLU on this day replied to a Westchester County, NY, grand jury presentment criticizing the ACLU report, Violence in Peekskill, on the anti-communist riot at Peekskill, NY, on August 27, 1949.

The riot involved violence by anti-communist demonstrators who successfully block a fund-raising concert for the left-wing Civil Rights Congress, which was to feature the noted African-American singer and political activist Paul Robeson.

The grand jury report claimed that the ACLU report was based on biased assumptions, gossip, rumors, and unverified evidence. The ACLU replied that the report was based on verified evidence, which was cited in the report.

The Civil Rights Congress had been included on the Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations, released on December 4, 1947. Paul Robeson was blacklisted in the Cold War for his political beliefs, which were highly critical of U.S. foreign policy. The State Department revoked his passport on August 4, 1950. The blacklist and the revocation of his passport destroyed Robeson’s previously successful career.

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