"...A Fourth of July picnic, a Sunday Best church revival, an urban rock concert and a rural civil rights rally"
August 20, 2009 7:15 PM   Subscribe

There was a historic music festival in the summer of 1969. But it's not the one that took place in Bethel, NY. The Harlem Cultural Festival ran from June 29 to August 24 that summer, presenting a concert every Sunday afternoon in Mount Morris Park (known today as Marcus Garvey Park). Three hundred thousand people turned out for the six free concerts, hearing acts like Nina Simone , Sly & the Family Stone (the only act to play both Woodstock and the "black Woodstock"), Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, The 5th Dimension, Moms Mabley and. Speakers included Jesse Jackson and "blue-eyed soul brother" Mayor John Lindsay. Security was courtesy of the Black Panthers, since the NYC police refused to provide it. Filmmaker Hal Tulchin recorded over 50 hours of concert footage, which has remained unreleased. Historic Films seems to hold the footage; it was supposed to be made into a movie to premiere at Sundance 2007, but its release seems to be continually delayed for reasons unclear.

There are a couple of other concerts that also get called the "Black Woodstock," though they took place well after 1969 -- this is a good way to confound researchers in the oughts. They are: Zaire 74, and WattStax.
posted by Miko (19 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:28 PM on August 20, 2009

Do check out all the Nina Simone clips on YouTube. Fantastic, especially her cover of "Ain't Got No" from HAIR.
posted by Miko at 7:36 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Great stuff!

The first link mentions that Abbey Lincoln was one of the performers. She will be back in Mount Morris Park next Saturday (the 25th) for the 15th Annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, along with Chico Hamilton and others.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:36 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Crap! That was last year. This year features the Frank Wess Quintet.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:41 PM on August 20, 2009

I was last in Mount Morris Park a couple years back and was sorely tempted to climb the Watchtower (fortunately, common sense prevailed).

And since it doesn't seem to be anywhere on YouTube, this Nina Simone track will make anyone a fan.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:57 PM on August 20, 2009

When I think of "the other historic rock concert in 1969" I think of Altamont.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:08 PM on August 20, 2009

I would bet you anything it's publishing rights on the songs that keep creating delays. Same thing that kept Killer of Sheep under wraps for decades. It's not like the RIAA has become more flexible with time over such things.
posted by el_lupino at 8:13 PM on August 20, 2009

Out of the country, still, I heard about it before the second week and it was fine to know it was there.

God, when finally it became reasonable for anyone to hear someone else say it was good to be young, gifted and black and them to either nod their head or have to hang their head in shame.
posted by elmaddog at 8:59 PM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks, filthylighthiuf." I kind of quailed in the face of the number of links there are to that set- some with better audio/video,some with worse, etc. There's also some Sly footage if you search. Hard to believe these concerts were free, and so accessible.
posted by Miko at 9:43 PM on August 20, 2009

It is literally a crime that the only versions of Nina Simone's "Ain't got no - I got life" from this concert are on fucking Youtube. I mean literally. Someone needs to go to jail for that shit.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:29 PM on August 20, 2009

from this concert are only on fucking Youtube
posted by dirigibleman at 11:30 PM on August 20, 2009

Luther Ingram from Wattstax
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:04 AM on August 21, 2009

Bob and Marcia's cover of Young Gifted and Black from Horace Ove's 1971 film, Reggae
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:15 AM on August 21, 2009

Donny Hathaway - "Young, Gifted and Black (Live)"

Worth noting that Soul Power, a new documentary film about Zaire '74 from the producer of When We Were Kings, just went into wide release.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:19 AM on August 21, 2009

Wow, I knew nothing about this. Thanks very much for the post, and I hope that footage becomes available.
posted by languagehat at 5:36 AM on August 21, 2009

Why, Metafilter, how did you know I was just re-starting my Nina Simone fixation? Oh Metafilter, you always know just what to say.
posted by The Whelk at 8:05 AM on August 21, 2009

Arthur Mag links to 6 clips of Sly & The Family Stone. Grainy nth generation video, but it's something.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Miko, thanks! I had no idea.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:35 PM on August 21, 2009

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