The Peekskill Riots Episode Two: The Friendly Town By The River

Saturday, June 297:00—9:30 PMCommunity roomPutnam Valley Library30 Oscawana Lake RD, Putnam Valley , NY, 10579

The Peekskill Riots were not an isolated case of violence in the Hudson Valley. They are part of a long history of racism and anti-semitism in the Peekskill area. The influence of the Ku Klux Klan on Peekskill in the early 20th century shaped the region for decades, striking terror into the hearts of African Americans, Catholics, and Jewish people. At its peak, their rallies in the heart of Peekskill had an attendance reaching 25,000. Although the KKK eventually faded away, the culture of hatred that had permitted its growth was still very much alive beneath the surface.

Yet Peekskill was also home to a progressive movement of summer colonies, scattered throughout the region. Made up predominantly of working-class Jewish families and influenced by a diverse assortment of leftist ideologies, their goals were to create small-scale, utopian communities in the countryside of the Hudson Valley. Their presence was considered a threat to the conservative culture of Peekskill. These tensions would only worsen as the political climate in America turned against progressive ideologies and their adherents, such as Paul Robeson.

To understand Peekskill during the Riots, we must first understand the forgotten past of the “Friendly Town” by the River.

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