Harlem Cultural Festival, “The Black Woodstock,” Harlem, New York, 1969 (Video)

The Harlem Cultural Festival (also known as Black Woodstock) was a series of music concerts held in Harlem in New York City during the summer of 1969 to celebrate African American music and culture and to promote the continued politics of black pride. Notable participants included Nina Simone, B.B. King, Sly & the Family Stone, Jesse Jackson, Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, The 5th Dimension, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, and Moms Mabley, among many others. For the concert featuring Sly & The Family Stone on June 29, 1969, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) refused to provide security, and it was instead provided by members of the Black Panther Party.

Producer Hal Tulchin filmed the full concert series, though the majority of this film remains commercially unreleased. New York’s affiliate television station WNEW Metromedia Channel 5 (now FOX) broadcast hour-long specials of the footage on Saturday evenings at 10:30 PM in June–August 1969. The festival was hosted and promoted by Tony Lawrence, a New York night club singer. The concerts took place in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park on Sundays at 3 pm from June 29, 1969, to August 24, 1969.

Sponsors included Maxwell House Coffee, and the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Division of the City of New York (now separated into Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs).

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