Coney Island: 1949. One leaf autographed manuscript signed. Recto with 44 lines of lyrics in manuscript, (11 4-line stanzas). Along the top margin in manuscript in manuscript is "Typed up" "Peekskill Golf Grounds" and "(Billy Vanero)." Along the bottom margin in manuscript is Guthrie's signature, army serial number (A.S.N. 42234634) and Coney Island/ Septem. 7th 1949. Verso is blank. In the years 1946-1954 Guthrie was living in Coney Island. One folio sheet (14 x 8 1/2 inches, 355 x 215 mm). Black ink, except (Billy Vanero) which is in green ink. Some light creasing through the horizontal middle of the leaf, and a 3.5 inch closed tear along the crease, with no loss of text. A small closed tear to top margin, also with no loss of text. Near Fine and a wonderful piece with great historical significance.
These manuscript lyrics are to the song "Peekskill Golf Ground" a song which is part of a larger group of songs called "the Peekskill Songs" that were never recorded by Guthrie, all regarding the situation and Guthrie's personal experience at the Peekskill riots in 1949.
According to Nora Guthrie of the Woody Guthrie Organization, "the archive has 2 typewritten copies made of the same lyric - dated Sept. 9th and 10th, 1949 - two days after this handwritten copy was made. On the typewritten copies, the song was retitled 'Peekskill Golfing Grounds'...The writing on the upper write corner is a reference to a folksong/melody, "Billy Vanere", which he probably used as a note to himself using that "structure" for this lyric. "
On August 27, 1949, black musician and activist Paul Robeson was scheduled to give a concert in Peekskill, New York. The concert was organized as a benefit for the Civil Rights Congress. Because of Robeson's strong and vocal stance on civil rights, pro-trade unions ans communist affiliations, when he arrived to perform, many of the locals rioted against him and his concert violently. These riots we extremely racially charged, as well as being anti-Semitic and anti-communist. The mobs violently attacked concertgoers and burned a cross on the hillside. The local police did very little to stop the violence and it has been noted that the organizers of the riots were the KKK. Because of the terrible violence, Robeson was unable to perform that day, but the concert was rescheduled for September 4th, 1949, with Robeson famously saying "the surest way to get police protection is to have it very clear that we'll protect ourselves, and good!... I'll be back with my friends in Peekskill...."
On September 4th, the re-scheduled concert was held on the grounds of the old Hollow Brook Golf Course. As news of the terrible violence had spread, this new event brought in over 20,000 supportive concert-goers. "2,500 trade union members formed a human wall to ensure the concert was not interrupted." (Hudson, History Today). Among the performers at the concert in addition to Robeson were American folk singers, Woody Guthrie, Lee Hays and Pete Seeger. The concert itself remained relatively peaceful, however as the performers were exiting in cars, their roads were blockaded by the police and more rioters were waiting with rocks and bats. The cars were attacked and windows broken. "The riots contributed to a small but significant chapter in American political history... the Peekskill riots would become the musical prelude to the anti- Communist career of Senator Joseph McCarthy." (Sixty Years Since the Peekskill Riots, Jeffery Salkin).
"In the weeks following the Peekskill riots, Guthrie wrote some of the angriest, most defiant songs of his career, railing against the bigotry of his assailants. His song “Peekskill Golfing Grounds” vividly recalls the violence of their rhetoric." (Woody Guthrie: American Radical. Will Kaufman)
Woody Guthrie, American singer and songwriter. (14 July 1912-3 Oct. 1967). "Woody Guthrie wrote more than 1,000 songs, including "So Long (It's Been Good to Know Yuh)" and "Union Maid." After serving in WWII, he continued to perform for farmer and worker groups. "This Land Is Your Land" was his most famous song, and it became an unofficial national anthem. " (Biography (dot) com). He worked in collaboration with other famous American folk singers such as Lee Hays and Pete Seeger and has been said to have been major influence on many other musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Johnnie Cash to name a few. Near Fine (Item #1780)