"Black Woodstock:" Upcoming Doc to Tell the Untold Story of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival
December 03, 2019
While young white America was defining itself as the Woodstock generation, young black America was finding its own voice.
What later became known as “Black Woodstock” with local Harlem residents, the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival is now the focus of a new feature documentary from Vulcan Productions, RadicalMedia and partners to create lasting impact with communities across the country. The 40 hours of never-seen-before footage was originally shot by the late television pioneer Hal Tulchin, but has remained in storage for the past 50 years, keeping this incredible event in America’s history lost - until now.
Making his directorial debut, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, is set to tell the untold story of a cultural defining summer in black history. Drummer, DJ, producer, culinary entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author, and member of The Roots, Questlove is also the Musical Director for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Beyond that, the 4-time Grammy Award-winning musician's indisputable reputation has landed him musical directing positions with everyone from D'Angelo to Eminem to Jay-Z.
“I am truly excited to help bring the passion, the story and the music of the Harlem Cultural Festival to audiences around the world,” said Thompson. “The performances are extraordinary. I was stunned when I saw the lost footage for the first time. It’s incredible to look at 50 years of history that’s never been told, and I’m eager and humbled to tell that story.”
This film marks Thompson’s feature directorial debut and focuses on the 1969 outdoor festival in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park. The festival featured dozens of extraordinary performances by artists including Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, B.B. King, the Staple Singers, the 5th Dimension, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson and Gladys Knight and the Pips. The idea of “Black Woodstock” was to celebrate African American music, culture and politics, and to promote black pride and unity.
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This Is #BlackWoodstock. Say if I told you there was a “Black Coachella” w all the amazing acts of the day (J Cole/Solange/Thundercat/Snoh Aalegra)—-say if I told y’all 300,000 people saw it.....& it was free. Say if Nobody Remembered it. That’s the story of #BlackWoodstock. A Gathering Of the GIANTS. Gospel. Salsa. Jazz. Comedy. Afro Caribbean. Blues. Soul. This all went down in the summer of 1969 mere weeks before a similar festival captured the attention of a nation and defined an entire generation. I can’t fathom that up until last year there was little to NO fanfare/info about this momentous musical gathering. That all changes now kids. Were you or your parents/teachers/neighbors/relatives/loved ones in attendence? We want you to share the story. History has its eyes on us so lets tell it correct! Please contact us at BLACKWOODSTOCKFILM@gmail.com
Over six consecutive weekends, the free festival captured a community in transition. Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder were bursting with youthful vitality and a young Jesse Jackson delivered hard-hitting sermons. Some of the most influential black performers from R&B, soul, pop, jazz, latin, gospel, and stand-up comedy all shared the stage. The festival boasted an attendance and arguably performances on par with Woodstock. Over 300,000 people attended, yet it received virtually no coverage from the mainstream media.
“The music and performances in Black Woodstock will knock audiences out of their seats,” said producers David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent. “The footage is unusually rich in texture and feel.