The Harlem Cultural Festival took place during 1969, a changing era in the black community. The Civil Rights Act had been passed, however, African Americans are still dealing with discrimination. There was a rich African American culture in Harlem. The heroin epidemic was going on in New York. The black community was especially hit hard during this time. Although the neighborhood had a reputation for being full of crime and a hub for rioting, the residents of Harlem took pride in their neighborhood. This pride was showcased through the Harlem Cultural Festival.

Featured Performers: 

Chambers Brothers

Stevie Wonder

B.B King

5th Dimension

Ed Hawkins & Singers

Papa Staple & Staple Singers

Mahalia Jackson

David Ruffin

Gladys Knight & the Pips

Sly and the Family Stone

Nina Simone

Moms Baley (Comedian)

Rick Fox (Comedian)

Hugh Masekela (Comedian)

“ 69 was the year where the negro died, and black was born”

In 1969, black people were redefining themselves using the term black instead of negro. The embracement of the term black gave black people a sense of power and self pride. The Black Panther was still very rampant during this time. The music also fueled black pride and was used in accordance with activism. 

Personal Review

Through the Harlem Cultural Festival, it is evident that the influence of black culture on music spans multiple genres. These genres have been able to develop and transcend through many generations. Even today, the music played at the festival is relevant in black culture. We use music to feel connected as black people. At the end of the film, it was revealed that the festival was forgotten and purposefully not sold on DVD. It was a method used to erase black history culture. Oftentimes black history has a negative connotation and the joy and art associated with blackness are lost. I am glad the Summer of Soul documentary highlighted how music is so influential in the black community and how it is able to give us joy, pride, and connection even through the hardest of times.