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October 18, 2021

Questlove documentary spotlights 1969 Harlem concert series featuring music greats

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. Some students may find it easier to read along with the transcript or turn on closed captions/CC.

Summary: In the summer of 1969, cameras captured a series of concerts in Harlem featuring artists who would go on to become musical legends, like Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and Gladys Knight. But for decades no one was interested in the footage until musician Questlove took up the challenge in a documentary that brings history to life. Jeffrey Brown recently spoke with Questlove for NewsHour’s arts series, “CANVAS.”

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is Questlove and what is his background?
  • What event does Questlove’s documentary cover?
  • Where and When did the concert in the documentary take place?
  • Why did Questlove want to make a documentary of this concert, according to this piece?
  • How does the documentary help us to better understand U.S. history, according to this piece?

Focus question:

  1. Why do you think Questlove was worried that he wasn’t “worthy” enough to make “Summer of Soul”? What do you think he was worried about?
  2. How do you think stories of the arts like this documentary can show viewers something about a broader historical moment?
  3. What artist or arts event from recent years do you think would be a good subject for a documentary that captured the times we’re living in now?

Media literacy: What special insights do you think a musician like Questlove had into making a music documentary? How do you think it might have been different if the documentary had been made by, say, a non-musician expert in American history instead of a musician?

Additional resources:

  1. You can watch the official trailer for “Summer of Soul” below.

 

2. Hindsight 20/21 is seeking student submissions!

If you had the chance to document the era of COVID in a creative project, how would you do so? Check out this opportunity by PBS NewsHour EXTRA and CoBuild19 and put your idea into action. Hindsight 20/21 is a multi-media project that invites students to share stories through art or text that express how the pandemic has affected them and their communities. Submissions will be compiled and shared to aid everyone in processing this period in our lives.

 


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