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Questlove On His Directorial Debut “Summer Of Soul” And The Significance Of The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival

Questlove attends Questlove's
Questlove attends Questlove's "Summer Of Soul" screening & live concert at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem on June 19, 2021 in New York City.
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

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The 1960s was a decade that held a lot of historical markers for American history. For the Black community, social inequality and systemic racism lead to political action in many different forms.

The end of the decade saw the death of many integral leaders to the civil rights movement, which led to more civil unrest and mourning. One way this community was able to get through this moment in history was through the power of music. The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival was a special moment in musical and Black history that was all a product of the other 8 years prior to it.

It’s a historical marker for Harlem that Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s film “Summer of Soul” depicts in-depth, bringing this story to life using archival footage and interviews. The Harlem Cultural Festival took place for 6 weeks, having some of the greatest Black musical acts the world has ever seen. Through this communal experience, attendees found themselves at ease with artists like Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and the 5th Dimension bringing this community of Harlem residents together. 

Today on FilmWeek, Larry Mantle speaks with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson about his feature directorial debut, “Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” and its chronicling of a major point in African American history.


Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, director of the documentary “Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” drummer for The Roots and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon; he tweets @questlove