In 1969, the Harlem Cultural Festival drew an audience of over 300,000 people to watch performances from Black stars of the day including Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Gladys Knight And The Pips, but it received little mainstream media coverage — especially compared to a certain music festival that also took place that summer: Woodstock, which drew similar attendance numbers but is still upheld as a legendary concert, inspiring numerous (mostly failed) attempts at recreation.
Questlove of The Roots, along with producers David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent, looks to change that with Black Woodstock, a documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival, which will be Quest’s directorial debut. Taken from 40 hours of never-seen-before footage shot by television pioneer Hal Tulchin, the documentary will detail the relevance of the festival, which took place over six consecutive weekends and featured huge names in R&B, soul, pop, jazz, latin, gospel, and stand-up comedy. B.B. King, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson, Sly And The Family Stone, and The Staple Singers were just some of the performers who participated in what would come to be known by residents and attendees as “the Black Woodstock.”
In a press release announcing the film, Questlove gushed, “I am truly excited to help bring the passion, the story and the music of the Harlem Cultural Festival to audiences around the world. The performances are extraordinary. I was stunned when I saw the lost footage for the first time. It’s incredible to look at 50 years of history that’s never been told, and I’m eager and humbled to tell that story.”
Release information will presumably be announced at a later date, so stay tuned. Read more about Questlove’s ongoing …ahem… quest to increase music appreciation here.