Harlem Cultural Festival

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Harlem Cultural Festival
Black Woodstock 1969.jpg
GenreRock music, R&B, soul music, jazz, pop music, etc.
DatesJune 29 – August 24, 1969
Location(s)Mount Morris Park in Harlem
New York City
Founded byTony Lawrence

The Harlem Cultural Festival (also known as Black Woodstock) was a series of music concerts held in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City during the summer of 1969 to celebrate African American music and culture and to promote the continued politics of black pride. Notable participants included Nina Simone, B.B. King, Sly and the Family Stone,[1] Chuck Jackson, Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach, the 5th Dimension, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, and Moms Mabley, among many others.[2] For the concert featuring Sly and the Family Stone on June 29, 1969, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) refused to provide security, and it was instead provided by members of the Black Panther Party.[3]

Producer Hal Tulchin recorded the full concert series, though the majority of this video remains commercially unreleased. New York's WNEW-TV Metromedia Channel 5 (now WNYW) broadcast hour-long specials of the footage on Saturday evenings at 10:30 PM in June–August 1969. The festival was hosted and promoted by New York night club singer Tony Lawrence. The concerts took place in Harlem's Mount Morris Park on Sundays at 3 PM from June 29 to August 24, 1969. Sponsors included Maxwell House Coffee, and the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Division of the City of New York (now separated into Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs).[3]

The series of six free concerts had a combined attendance of nearly 300,000.[4]

Several attempts were made to turn Hal Tulchin's videos into a television special or film, including one by Tulchin in 1969 and another 2004 that ended when funding ran out. In 2019, it was announced in numerous outlets that Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson would make his directorial debut with Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), a feature documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival. Questlove's film was released on July 2, 2021 in theaters and on Hulu.[5][6][7]

50th anniversary festival[edit]

A 50th Year Anniversary celebration of the Harlem Cultural Festival took place August 14–17, 2019 in Harlem, hosted by Future x Sounds and City Parks Foundation Summerstage.[4][8] The event featured musical performances by Talib Kweli, Cory Henry, Alice Smith, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Keyon Harrold, Braxton Cook, Freddie Stone (who performed at the original event), George "Spanky" McCurdy, Nate Jones On Bass, was curated by Neal Ludevig and was musically directed by Igmar Thomas.[9] The event also featured conversations with Jamal Joseph, Felipe Luciano, Gale Brewer, Toni Blackman, Juma Sultan, Voza Rivers, among many others at Harlem Stage and the Schomburg.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Summer of Soul: New film revives lost 'Black Woodstock' gig series". BBC News. 13 July 2021. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  2. ^ "Remembering Harlem's 'Black Woodstock'". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. August 15, 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Black Woodstock". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  4. ^ a b Bernstein, Jonathan (2019-08-09). "This 1969 Music Fest Has Been Called 'Black Woodstock.' Why Doesn't Anyone Remember?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  5. ^ Lang, Brent (2019-12-02). "Questlove to Make Directorial Debut With 'Black Woodstock' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  6. ^ Shaffer, Claire (2019-12-02). "Questlove to Make Directorial Debut With 'Black Woodstock'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  7. ^ "Questlove to Direct 'Black Woodstock' Documentary". Billboard. 2019-12-02. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  8. ^ Brooks, Daphne A. (2019-08-15). "At 'Black Woodstock,' an All-Star Lineup Delivered Joy and Renewal to 300,000". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  9. ^ "Marcus Garvey Park Events - Black Woodstock 50th Anniversary: Igmar Thomas / Talib Kweli / Keyon Harrold & Special Guests In association with Moon31 / Future Sounds : NYC Parks". www.nycgovparks.org. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  10. ^ "Changing communities, Black Woodstock, Black Panthers, and Activism". Global Soul Events, Music, News. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  11. ^ "Dive Deeper: Black Woodstock 50th Anniversary Celebration". Harlem Stage. Retrieved 2019-08-27.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]