“remember it is still the “Black Woodstock”?”, asks the american magazine Rolling Stone. To see the little articles of press devoted to the fiftieth anniversary of the Harlem Cultural Festival, the story seems to have overshadowed the music event dedicated to african-american culture for the benefit of its competitor hippie. In a long article published in the specialized magazine, journalist Jonathan Bernstein reviews the history of this key event. And, yet, almost forgotten.
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While Woodstock attracted half a million spectators on August 18, 1969 on the land of farmer Max Yasgur, the “Black Woodstock” was attended by nearly 300,000 fans of rhythm and blues in the Mount Morris Park in Harlem throughout the summer. A public that came in droves to applaud the artists iconic of african-american culture: Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone or even B. B. King.
acute Pain, intense joy
like its twin, the hippie, the Harlem Cultural has been immortalized in images through the camera of director Hal Tulchin. This veteran of television, who died in 2017, has accumulated approximately 40 hours of rush, yet never shown. Difficult to raise public awareness of white american to the black cause in an era where they must fight to claim their rights. “The press white is interested in the african-american community only in case of riot or public disorder,” wrote the journalist Raymond Robinson in the pages of the New York Amsterdam News in the months following the event.
“”The festival was a way to appease the pain that we felt after the assassination of Martin Luther King -”
However, the Harlem Cultural, created in 1967, became during three summers the must-see event of the black culture in New York city, attracting musicians and civil rights leaders as Marcus Garvey Jr. or pastor Jesse Jackson. “The festival was a way to appease the pain that we felt after the assassination of Martin Luther King, remembers the latter. The artists have tried to express the tensions of the time, acute pain and intense joy”.
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Announced for the year 1970, the festival was cancelled due to a history of funding fraud involving the mafia. Fifty years after the third and final edition, the city of New York examines the history of the event, organizing a series of events in Harlem (concerts, conferences…). The next year, a documentary containing previously unseen footage shot by Tulchin should see the light of day. A way of not forgetting the “Black Woodstock”.