Part 2 of ‘Peekskill Riots’ Film at Field Library June 8

The Peekskill Ku Klux Klan on the march in the 1940s.

Episode 2 also can be viewed at as of May 24, 2024

The second episode of filmmaker Jon Scott Bennett‘s five-part docu-series The Peekskill Riots will be shown at 2 pm on June 8 at The Field Library.

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 in 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.

Schoolchildren at the Mohegan Colony, one of several progressive colonies in the region in the mid-20th Century.

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.

The 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.

The Peekskill Riots explores the events leading up to the 1949 riots, the people involved, the riots themselves, and the aftermath in a five-episode docu-series. Episode Two, to be released in May, contextualizes the culture of the Hudson Valley to understand how it was an environment ripe for violence.

Documentarian Jon Scott Bennett has gained recognition for his previous films focusing on local history, including The Pound Ridge Massacre and The Leatherman. Bennett, who has a Bachelor of Arts in history, shares his passion for research and storytelling through documentary film.


  1. As a former resident of Briarcliff, Ossining and Verplanck, I am always interested in hearing about the lower Hudson River communities that I loved so well.
    I had heard about the Peekskill Riots, but never any specifics, nor the numbers of people involved in these. How frightening it must have been.
    How can I view Episode 1?
    thank you
    Shirley Dahlgren
    (presently residing in Poughkeepsie)

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