Being a festival meant to celebrate blackness, many prominent black musicians performed at the festival held in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park. Among them were Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, B.B. King, the 5th Dimension, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson, the Staple Singers, and Gladys Knight and the Pips. It was also held a little over a year after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
The name Black Woodstock comes from what locals of the area nicknamed the festival, which reached a crowd of over 300,000, about 3/4 of the crowd at Woodstock and about the same amount of people at the Altamont Festival. Interestingly (but not surprisingly) enough for an event in the 1960s, the Harlem Cultural Festival got very little publicity from mainstream news outlets. Fortunately for the documentary, the late Hal Tulchin had over 40 hours of footage for use.
Of the project, Thompson reveals he is “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.”