The new documentary was released this weekend – Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). It is the film about the Harlem Cultural Festival that took place the same summer as Woodstock in 1969 at Mount Morris Park in New York City and attended by approximately 300,000 people. The festival was filmed but never broadcasted before. TV producers and film studios weren’t interested in performances by Nina Simone, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Sly, and the Family Stone, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson, and many other talented musicians.
But Summer of Soul is not only about great performances. It is about the moment in history when, as we hear in the film, “negro died and black was born.” Former New York Times writer Charlayne Hunter-Gault said in the film that writing about the festival she insisted on writing “Black” when she referred to Black people, instead of usual at that time “Negro,” which some of her editors fought against (until the executive editor considered her arguments and told her “you’re right,” and changed the paper’s policy). No one had ever written “Black” as a race in the New York Times before her.
Summer of Soul is about a community that united to celebrate its beauty, joy, and hope and being sick and extremely tired of violence and oppression. In the movie we see a scene with John F Kennedy Kennedy in his motorcade before he was shot, then t changed to Malcolm X saying that JFK’s assassination “was a result of the climate of hate”; then Martin Luther King talking about Malcolm X murder, and after Robert Kennedy announcing King’s death, and the assassination of Robert Kennedy himself.