On August 27, 1949, Paul Robeson was scheduled to sing at a concert sponsored by the music group People’s Artists at the Lakeland Acres Picnic Grounds, a few miles north of Peekskill, New York, about fifty miles north of New York City. This was a favorite summer resort area frequented by progressive intellectuals, especially because of its proximity to Croton-on-Hudson, where many progressive artists and writers lived. The author, Howard Fast, who was vacationing in Croton-on-Hudson, was asked to chair the concert.
The concert scheduled for Aug. 27, 1949, in Peekskill, N.Y., was supposed to be routine. Though it had been organized by People's Artists, a brand new spin-off organization of the People's Songs formation that had launched the Weavers into the top-40 charts, it was the fourth such concert to benefit the Harlem Chapter of the Civil Rights Congress.