BLACK VOICES
08/15/2011 01:06 pm ET | Updated Oct 15, 2011

A Look Black: Black Woodstock, 1969 (VIDEO)

While barely dressed hippies were swaying and smooching and dropping acid to Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin on a dairy farm in upstate New York in the August of 1969, some serious black folks were staving off the concrete heat in New York City's Harlem with a series of concerts called Harlem Cultural Festival. Commonly referred to as Black Woodstock, the concerts featured B.B. King, Abbey Lincoln, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson and yes, the one and only -- Miss Nina Simone. Thousands attended, addressed by, among others, a young Reverend Jesse Jackson, who spoke in vivid terms: "As I look out at us ... today, I was hoping it would be in preparation for the major fight we as a people have on our hands here in this nation. Some of you are laughing because you don't know any better ... but you need to know that some mean stuff is going down. A lot of you can't read newspapers. A lot of you can't read books because our schools have been mean and left us illiterate or semi-literate. But you have the mental capacity to read the signs of the times." Tell it, Jesse.

Portrait of American vocalist Nina Simone, October 30, 1969. (Photo by Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Here Nina Simone, who always seemed in her performances to be so central, so present and yet impossibly sad, sings her version of The Beatles' "Revolution." She died in 2003. We remember her and Black Woodstock with pride in today's A Look Black.

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