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Soul! or SOUL! (1967–1971[1] or 1967–1973[2][3]) was a pioneering performance/variety television program in the late 1960s and early 1970s produced by New York City PBS affiliate, WNET. It showcased African American music, dance and literature.[4]


The program was funded in part by the Ford Foundation, who characterized it in 1970 as "the only nationally televised weekly series oriented to the black community and produced by blacks".[5]


The program was created and often hosted by Ellis Haizlip, an openly gay African American closely associated with the Black Arts Movement.[4] Poet Nikki Giovanni was also a frequent host.[2] Among the musical performers who appeared on the show were Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind, and Fire, the Dells, Labelle, Ashford and Simpson,[4] Al Green, Tito Puente, McCoy Tyner, Max Roach, and Gladys Knight, as well as African performers Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba.[2] Others who appeared on the program included boxer Muhammad Ali, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, minister (later politician) Jesse Jackson, actor / singer Harry Belafonte, actor Sidney Poitier,[2] and Kathleen Cleaver, wife of Eldridge Cleaver.[1]

Cultural impact[edit]

Its viewership in the African American community was enormous: a 1968 Harris poll estimated that more than 65% of African American households with access to the show watched it on a regular basis.[4] In 1970 it was carried by 72 public television stations.[5]

Gayle Wald writes that "Soul! offered viewers radical ways of imagining—of hearing, feeling, and seeing—black community. Musically speaking, Soul! refused the division of black arts into high and low culture: the music of the concert hall versus the music of the Apollo. Soul! made room for both…"[4]


  1. ^ a b James Ledbetter, Made Possible By...: The Death of Public Broadcasting in the United States (1997), Verso, ISBN 1-85984-029-9, p. 64.
  2. ^ a b c d WPA Film Library announces exclusive representation of groundbreaking PBS Soul! series, WPA Film Library Newsletter, September 2002, Volume 2. Accessed online 20 April 2008.
  3. ^ C. Gerald Fraser, Ellis Haizlip, Producer, 61, Dies; Mentor to Many Black Performers, January 30, 1991, New York Times. Accessed online 21 April 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e Gayle Wald, Abstract for "Vibrations Strong and Mean: 'Soul!' TV and 1970s R&B", Experience Music Project 2008. Accessed online 20 April 2008.
  5. ^ a b Ford Foundation Annual Report 1970, p. 55 of 102. Accessed online 20 April 2008.