Harlem Cultural Festival honored with resolution by U.S. Senate

New York senator Chuck Schumer submitted a resolution that recognized the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, chronicled in the Oscar-winning documentary.

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The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, chronicled in the hit documentary Summer of Soul, was honored by the U.S. Senate, which recognized it with a resolution on Wednesday.

Through “unanimous consent,” the resolution was submitted by New York Senator and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The document recognized the Harlem Cultural Festival as “the culmination of a movement, in which Black artists, performers, and activists shared their art with hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans, entertained the throngs who attended, and gave voice to the political grievances of the late 1960s.”

94th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room
(L-R) Joseph Patel, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent, winners of Best Documentary Feature for “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” pose in the press room during the 94th Annual Academy Awards on March 27, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Momodu Mansaray/WireImage, David Livingston/Getty Images )

Taking place over the summer of 1969, the Harlem Cultural Festival, created by Tony Lawrence, featured performances from Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Sly and the Family Stone, The 5th Dimension, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, and many others. Appearances were also made by Marcus Garvey Jr. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

The festival was immortalized by the Summer of Soul film, directed by The Roots bandleader Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who culled from 40 hours of footage filmed by director Hal Tulchin in 1969. The film became a success, winning the 2022 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The resolution also made mention of Summer of Soul and its contribution to the recognition of the festival. It stated that the film, “highlights the cultural and political impacts of this festival by juxtaposing footage from the 1969 festival with modern-day interviews and voiceovers about the political environment at the time of the festival.”

Joseph Patel, the Oscar-winning producer of Summer of Soul, told Rolling Stone how proud he was about the resolution.

“When we all started on the journey of making this documentary, it was to tell the story of this incredible moment in time, in Harlem, to put on for its people,” Patel said. “We hoped it would give all those involved in the Festival and the community at large some recognition for an incredible cultural event. As filmmakers, to have the Festival acknowledged by this resolution is a satisfying coda to the story.”

The resolution also recognized the 1970 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. That festival included performances from Mahalia Jackson and Duke Ellington.

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