Summer of Soul Review
by Mariah Wolfe

Overall Review

Summer of soul is a documentary made by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. Summer of soul showcased the Harlem Cultural Festival.  The Harlem Cultural Festival was a series of live performances staged in the summer of 1969 in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, to showcase African American music and culture and to encourage the persistent politics of black pride.

Styles of Music Performed

Soul, R&B, Blues, Rock, Funk and Jazz were the main genres performed at this festival. These genres drew more than 300,000 people to the city of Manhatten.

Artist That Performed

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder was just 19 years old when he performed at the Harlem Music Festival. He performed “Its Your Thing” by The Isley Brothers. Then performed a drum solo and ended his performance with his song called “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day.” 

Nina Simone

This performance has gone down in history as one of Nina Simone’s best performances. She sane the song “Revolution” and simple blew the crowd away and some may say she even stole the show. 

Gladys Knight and the pips

Gladys Knight and the Pips had just got their recognition in Motown music world. They performed one of their early songs called “I Heard it Through The Grapevine.” Little did they know this was just the start of an amazing career. 

The Purpose of The Festival

Summer of Soul employs music as both motivation and foundation, setting the stage for topics ranging from the debate over nonviolence in civil rights action to Harlem’s role as a cultural refuge for Black people.

Rev. Jesse Jackson took the stage at the festival in hopes to get the crowd to understand that black people as a unit should come together. Gospel legends Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples  performed “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.” This was the favorite song of DR. Martin Luther King Jr. Jackson told a story of the day that Dr. King was assassinated stating that he mentioned the song moments before his death. 

The event showcased the civil rights charge to action to ignite the black community to come together for the injustice they were experiencing at the time. This festival was merely a rally to promote black pride and racial equality. The festival was a message not just a showcase. 


Personally, I really enjoyed the film. I was truly engaged and I really don’t enjoy documentaries. The film made me feel like I was there. I felt the energy of the festival through the documentary. The festive did a phenomal job bringing the black community together. It was so many different stories that were being told and the festiveal did a great job making sure everyone was heard. 

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