Let me tell you the story of a line that was held
And many men and women whose courage we know well
As they held the line at Peekskill on that lone September day
We will hold the line forever 'til the people have their way.
Spoken (Howard Fast):
My name is Howard Fast. I'm here to tell you the story of Peekskill. You see, there are actually two Peekskills. Two concerts. Two Fascist attacks. And I was at both. You won't get the true story from the daily press or the radio, so we're putting it on record for you now. Here are the facts.
You are invited to a summer concert with Paul Robeson. Pete Seeger, Hope Foye, Joan Schlesinger and George Walker, presented hy People's Artists, for the benefit of the Harlem Chapter of the Civil Rights Congress, Sunday, August 27, 1949, at the Lakeland Picnic Grove, Peekskill, New York.
More facts. The Klan elements in Westchester County threatened violence. Police protection was asked. Four deputies showed up to watch 700 so called veterans attack the early picnickers. These 700 hoodlums closed the only exits, and for three hours they were kept from killing the women and children by a brave group of 39 men and boys, Negro and white. Before the police came, the mob had smashed the rented chairs and burned our music, while they shouted anti-Negro and anti-Semitic epithets, and boasted that they would finish Hitler's job.
Hold the line, hold the line,
As we held the line at Peekskill we will hold it everywhere.
Hold the line, hold the line
We will hold the line forever 'til there's freedom everywhere.
My name is Freddy Hellerman of People's Artists. I want to tell you how the entire nation was aroused by the Peekskill outrage. The Westchester Committee for Law and Order invited People's Artists to return to Peekskill and have their concert. Well, we did go back on September 4th. It was Labor Day, and we went back 25,000 strong, while 4,000 trade unionists. most of them real veterans, formed a protective guard. We held our concert with Paul Robeson, and Pete Seeger and Hope Foye, Lee Hambro, George Allen, and Joan Schlesinger, and it was a beautiful day, a fine performance, and a victory for all Americans.
PAUL ROBESON (recording):
...instead of cryin'. we must keep fightin', until we're dyin'
And Old Man River, he'll just keep rollin' along, (applause)
When the music was all over, we started to go home.
We did not know the trouble and the pain that was to come.
We got into our buses and drove out through the gate
And saw the gangster police, their faces filled with hate.
And without any warning, the rocks began to come
The cops and troopers laughed to see the damage that was done.
They ran us through the gauntlet, to their everlasting shame.
And the cowards there attacked us. their nation knew their shame.
(Insults, epithets, etc. in the background)
That's the sound of Fascism. Not in Germany, but here in America. Remember it!
(More shouts and epithets)
This is Pete Seeger. I was there, too. There were 900 police, deputies and state troopers at Peekskill. They allowed the mob to form along a four
mile line of road, and directed all traffic down this only exit, and then stood by watching while the hoodlums threw rocks through the windows of cars and buses. Heads were bashed in, eyes were cut by flying glass. Cars were overturned, and the people in them dragged out and beaten! And the police stood by and laughed! Hoodlum gangs went on a night long reign of terror all through Westchester County clear down to 210th Street and Broadway. Then the police moved! They moved into the picnic grounds lo beat up the trade union guards.
Over 160 wounded were reported at hospitals. One trade unionist, for example, had his nose pulverized, his skull fractured, and lost the sight of one eye permanently. Protests have heen pouring in to Dewey from all over the country. District Attorney Finnelli reportetl to Governor Dewey, "Police should be commended for their excellent work!" And Governor Dewey said to Mr. Finnelli. "The police did an excellent job. The Communists provoked this. Uh, you investigate the riot, Mr. Finnelli." But at a great mass meeting to protest Peekskill, Paul Robeson gave our answer: "These Klan-inspired and police-condoned hoodlums cannot stop the song of freedom in America! We are going on singing and presenting our concerts in every corner of America. Let's fight together!"
All across the nation we are telling you this tale
You can marvel at the concert and know we have not failed.
We shed our blood at Peckskill and suffered many a pain
But we beat back the fascists and we'll beat them back again!
Hold the line, hold the line.
We will hold the line forever 'til there's freedom everywhere!