Paul Robeson's Conflicts In The Peekskill Riots

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For average Americans during the early postwar era, the shadow of the Soviet Union and communism loomed as a threat to their way of life, causing paranoia over the threat of communist infiltration, which gave rise to the “Red Scare”. This mass hysteria led Americans to become fearful of communist agents attempting to infiltrate their society, and to undermine it from within. Studies of this era of US culture tend to focus on McCarthyism, the term used to describe the mass communist “witch hunt” within the government, and its impact on certain individuals and politics, rather than focusing on its effects for movements such as civil rights for African-Americans. Analysis of events such as Paul Robeson’s involvement in the Peekskill Riots of 1949, …show more content…
Wary of Robeson’s growing influence and alleged pro-revolutionary beliefs, they used Robinson to discredit (what the media had incorrectly published as) Robeson’s statement from the Paris Peace Conference. The media then spread Robinson’s statement further to damage Robeson’s image. The media’s undeniable bias in their coverage of Robeson continued for months. It became quite clear that Robeson was soon seen as one of the most hated individuals in white America as a result. Additionally, he became one of the country’s most well-known “communists”, a label that he vigorously refuted. Despite his refutations, Robeson’s portrayal in the media would influence average white Americans to become more suspicious of the potential alliance between the communists and black community to undermine their way of …show more content…
And they had the ideal platform from which to do it: HUAC.” HUAC had a series of members, but also leaders, that had overtly racist and segregationist views, who intentionally targeted as many civil rights advocacy groups as possible. Consequently, HUAC’s reports would be widely circulated amongst KKK groups, the American Nazi Party, and segregationist newspapers to spark further fears, and thus continued to garner support for segregation. As a result, many integrationists were simply scared away from supporting any civil rights advocacy groups due to their fear that their lives would be ruined should they be blacklisted. It comes as no surprise then that much of the progress of the civil rights movement was delayed until the late 1950s and early 1960s in conjunction with HUAC’s influence dramatically decreasing as the paranoia of the “Red Scare” slowly vanished in the later years of the decade. With communist infiltration no longer seen as as large of a threat as it once was, segregationists lacked an enemy to attach to the civil rights movement, and thus their defense against integration was severely

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