Summer of Soul

The film Summer of Soul captures and shows us the Cultural Festival in Harlem during the Summer in 1969. The entire festival was recorded at the time that it happened, but it was hidden from the world until recently when Summer of Soul was released on Hulu.

Key Performers

  • Charlie Atkins

  • Gladys Knight & The Pips

  • Sly & The Family Stone

  • Santa Marie

  • David Ruckus

  • Nina Simone

  • The 5th dimension

  • The Staple Singers

  • Eddie Hawkins

  • Willie Tyler & Lester

  • Moms Mabley

  • Stevie Wonder

Cultural Impact

The Cultural Festival in Harlem had a huge impact on not only the people of Harlem but black people all around the world. This one place held 50,000 black people who were different, yet the same. Different in their lifestyles, but the same when it came to the culture and the hardships that they had to face. It was a time in which they were looking for new freedoms and doing their best to thrive in a place that promised hope and opportunity.

Harlem during this time was thriving from the new influx of people who had traveled to create a better life for themselves and their families. It was rich with entertainment and was known as the place to be during this time. The bars, clubs, music, and festivals that were happening in Harlem only made Harlem that much more appealing.

Music began to change and life was changing with it. Music became a sort of lifestyle and was an element to life. It was a revolution for the black culture because music wasn’t just to listen to and enjoy. Artist were creating relatable lyrics, rhythms that connected to the culture, and  evoked so much emotion. Not only did this festival allow for a coming together of the culture, but it also created a sense of community and family. Many times in the film the festival is known as a revolution and took place during a time when black people were at war. In other words, the Harlem Cultural Festival was much more than just a big music festival. It was a time and place of unity for black people all over.

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What else was going on during this time?

During the time of this revolutionary festival, there were also big events that were happening in life around it. Apollo 11 had just successfully landed on the moon, yet attendants at the festival were unfazed by such news. The Harlem community felt that there were bigger things to worry about and spend money on than the moon and space. Black people were fighting for equality and respect, while the rest of the world was focused on putting a man on the moon. Not only was the black community fighting a war, but Harlem was also in a heroin epidemic that was killing off black people rapidly.