It's Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television
Gayle Wald is Professor of English and American Studies at George Washington University. She is the author of Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in U.S. Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture.
Soul! and the 1960s
Soul! was a product of the 1960s when the liberal state, in the wake of Martin Luther King’s assassination, conceived of television as a tool of recognizing and managing the social and political discontent of African Americans. And yet it could not have existed without the civil rights movement, which created inroads for black representation on and access to the means of production of television, particularly that which purported to serve the public. Underwritten by a Ford Foundation grant, Soul! was initially conceived as a black Tonight Show, yet what its producer Ellis Haizlip eventually fashioned was a politically engaged variety show that put music and other performing arts at the forefront and included the audience within its representation.