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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]

Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Production company(s)WNET
Original networkNET/PBS
Original release1968 (1968) –
1973 (1973)


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]


New York City's Channel 13 / WNET TV (PBS) aired the first in a series of 39 one-hour programs entitled Soul! on Thursday, September 12, 1968. The program was video-taped inside WNET's then-West 55th Street Studios in Manhattan. The two original co-hosts on that Sept. 12, 1968 premier show were Alvin Poussaint, the noted black Harvard psychologist, and educator Loretta Long, who, one year later, took on the role as Susan Robinson on Sesame Street. Poussaint is well known for his research on racism's effect in the black community. Poussaint is a noted author, public- speaker, and television consultant. His work in psychology is influenced greatly by the civil rights movement in the South, which he joined in 1965.

The premier broadcast of SOUL! featured singer Barbara Acklin, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, actress-singer Novella Nelson, Billy Taylor, the Vibrations singing group, gospel musician Pearl Williams Jones, and comedian Irwin C. Watson. The pair did four more shows together afterwards: the SOUL! broadcasts of Sept. 26, 1968, Oct. 10, 1968, and Oct. 17, 1968. Poussaint left the show after that. He was replaced by Ellis Haizlip with the Oct. 24, 1968 broadcast. Haizlip and Long then co-hosted the show through Dec. 5, 1968.

Ellis Haizlip became the SOUL! program's sole host beginning with the show's December 19, 1968 broadcast. The show lasted until 1973.

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] Legendary poetry collective The Last Poets also performed on the show.[6]

Cultural impactEdit

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]

Ivan Cury was the staff director for the program until 1970, when Stan Lathan, father of actress Sanaa Lathan assumed the directing position. Producers included actress Anna Marie Horsford, later known for her roles in That's My Mama and The Wayans Brothers television series. Occasional host Loretta Greene later appeared in the movies "Black Girl" and "Solomon Northup's Odyssey" in 1984, the original version of "12 Years A Slave."


  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.
  6. ^ "[1]", SOUL! EPISODE LIST, 1968-1973, WNET,