The Legacy of Wattstax Benefit Concert And The Watts Summer Festival

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Los Angeles, CA--August marked the 50th anniversary of Stax Records Wattstax concert at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Aug. 20, 1972.

The seven 7-hour concert was attended by over 110,000 people and featured some of the biggest artists of the time including Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Rance Allen and Carla Thomas.

Tickets were priced at $1 so that the concert was accessible to everyone.

Stax Records Co-founder and Executive Producer of Wattstax concert Al Bell writes:

We believed that Wattstax would demonstrate the positive attributes of Black pride and the unique substance found in the lives, living, and lifestyle of the African American working class and middle class while revealing some insight into their internal thoughts during a time when we were still struggling to be recognized, respected, accepted as human beings, and to be granted “equal rights” as enjoyed by every other ethnic group in the larger segment of American society.

The Library of Congress

A large portion of the net proceeds were donated to the Watts Summer Festival, an annual cultural event led and organized by Black L.A.

Read More: Interview: Janelle Monae Brings Wondalunch To Watts

The Watts Summer Festival was birthed out the ashes of the 1965 Watts rebellion.

Anti-poverty and Black nationalist groups worked together to annually celebrate and uplift the Watts community following the riots.

The festival parade, featuring a celebrity grand marshal and the winner of the Miss Watts beauty contest, was the highlight of the celebration. Organizers chose Sargent Shriver, the director of the War on Poverty, as the first grand marshal in 1966.  Muhammad Ali served as grand marshal in 1967.


August also marked 57 years since the 1965 Watts rebellion, which was sparked by decades of racial, social, and economic tensions facing African-Americans in Los Angeles.

The rebellion/riot lasted six days and led to major property damage and several deaths in Watts.

The entire Wattstax concert was filmed and the movie Wattstax: The Living Word has been added to the Library of Congress’ “Most Influential Motion Pictures” honor roll.

Read More: From the National Film Registry: “Wattstax” (1973)

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Wattstax this year, people are asked to send their stories, photos, memorabilia or anything Wattstax related.

Whether you were at the event, lived in Watts at the time, or had relatives who attended, please share your stories and pictures below.

Submit your Wattstax memories here: https://staxrecords.com/wattstax/

Slauson Girl is a South Central native who has a love for journalism, history and all things Hip-Hop. She holds a B.A in Critical Race & Gender Theory & a Minor in Journalism. Follow Me on IG @Slausongirl

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