The Harlem Cultural Festival, largely known as “Black Woodstock,” took place in the summer of 1969, featuring a bevy of Black stars. Videographer Hal Tulchin, who documented the footage of the event, passed recently at the age of 90.
Black Woodstock was held in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park, now known as Marcus Garvey Park. Although the event had national sponsors, producers shied away from adding big bucks to the budget because the performers were Black according to an interview from Tulchin’s daughter.
The son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine who settled in New Jersey, Tulchin became a fixture in the television industry in Manhattan, working on a variety of shows and programs. Because of the lack of finances and interests from large corporate sponsors, Tulchin used five video cameras and built the set himself.
The makeshift operation overlapped with the larger and well-funded Woodstock festival happening in upstate New York but managed to attract top entertainers of the era. Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, Sly and the Family Stone, and a legendary performance from Nina Simone were notable moments among others.
Hours of footage has been digitized and in recent times, Tulchin has fought to get a documentary funded and produced about Black Woodstock but roadblocks still abound. There is hope that Black Woodstock footage will eventually surface as little of it as been seen. 2019 marks the event’s 50th anniversary, and a producer told the New York Times there are renewed talks to bring a film into fruition.
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