By: Amaya Roberts


The Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969 was the subject of the film ‘Summer of Soul”. The free consecutive six- weekend concert took place in Harlem at St. Morris Park. Harlem being the prime place of refuge filled with the best clubs, rich foods and creativity.  Coming at the tail end of the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, and Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and the Black Panther Party.  The concert just wasn’t about the music it was about progress, being proud of black people, the uplifting of each other.  1969 was the reevaluation of culture and history, “Black is Beautiful “was not only said but believed. Natural afros, bright colors, platforms shoes, the dashiki representing the freedom suit, men with no shirts and leather vest.  Although not publicized like Woodstock that took place at the same time it with was the transition from being called negro to black, representation of royalty with an atmosphere that smelled of fried chicken and afro sheen. 

Artist that inspired: 

Those present were able to enjoy many artists including but not limited to Edwin Hawkins Singers singing “Oh Happy Day”: The 5th Dimension performing Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In, The Chambers Brothers, Pop Staples & The Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson. BB King singing Why I Sing the Blues, David Ruffin signing My Girl, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Sly & The Family Stone, Nina Simone, Ray Barretto. Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Pop, church instruments represented the challenges and stress of everyday life. Gender parities were addressed where the audience were able to see woman as lead singers and playing instruments. At a time where music was segregated the festival offered a bridge between Afro Centric and Latin/ Caribbean cultures

Personal Reflection: 

Watching “The Summer of Soul” was uplifting, entertaining, very inspiring, and enlightening. There were great back stories, great music and it was awesome to see all the live acts on stage. It was also interesting to see that so many issues that were being addressed or affecting the black community are a mirror reflection of issues that are present within the black community now. The aspiration and intention for equal justice, and equal opportunity continue. I give the performances a ten out of ten, wishing it was shared prior to sitting on a shelf for 50 years. I look forward to seeing more presentation like this in class.

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